New law provides midwives with a path to state license

Colleen Marotta has delivered hundreds of babies.

Marotta, 43, of Arlington Heights, became a nurse in 2001. Ten years later, she became a certified professional midwife. But the law barred her from delivering babies in Illinois, forcing her to drive to Wisconsin to deliver babies there.

On Tuesday morning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that allows the certification and licensure of certified professional midwives in Illinois. The new law sets qualification and educational standards for certified professional midwives. It is effective on Oct. 1, 2022.

"With the legislation I sign today, the lifesaving and life-giving work midwives perform will be legally recognized here in Illinois. It's a victory decades in the making and one that recognizes the full worth and value of midwives in reproductive care," Pritzker said. "Most importantly, it ensures safe home births for every mother who chooses to deliver out-of-hospital - another step forward advancing health equity in communities across our state."

The 2020 report to the General Assembly by the Illinois Task Force on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans stated that the pregnancy-related mortality rate in Illinois is 23 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, a severe maternal morbidity rate of 51.4 per 10,000 births, and an infant mortality rate of 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In all of these categories, Black mothers and infants die or are injured at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts.

In addition to attending at-home births, certified professional midwives provide supervision, prenatal and post-natal care and advice to a pregnant woman during a low-risk pregnancy, labor and post-partum, as well as providing normal newborn care.

"Although our work is far from done, this is a good step that will reduce child and maternal mortality in Illinois," state Rep. Mary E. Flowers, a Chicago Democrat, said. "This moment is years in the making and I look forward to continuing to work with the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to improve maternal health outcomes for low-income women."

The COVID-19 pandemic has led more expecting mothers to turn to home births attended by midwives, instead of traditional hospital births, Marotta said.

"It provides autonomy, choice and support for the mother," Marotta said. "As well as having whomever the mother, whomever they want in their labor space."

To be licensed as a midwife, a candidate must be a certified professional midwife registered with the North American Registry of Midwives. In addition, the candidate must complete a midwifery education program accredited by the Midwife Education and Accreditation Council.

Illinois is the 37th state in the US to recognize certified professional midwives.

The bill took nine months to "birth," said Rep. Robyn Gabel, an Evanston Democrat.

"Midwives are trained to do home births, but they haven't been able to get the certifications they need to do that in this state," Gabel said. "Not only will having a formal process for certifying midwives make home births safer for mothers and babies, but it will also give new and expecting parents more options at such a critical time in their lives."

Marotta earned her master's degree and went on to become a certified nurse midwife around 2014 so she could handle more complicated cases and deliver in Illinois.

Marotta, the mother of four, gave birth to her children at home. She works for Midwives Care, LLC in New Lenox, a practice that serves rural and suburban populations. As certified professional midwives become more prevalent, Marotta said she thinks that more women will choose at-home births.

"I think that there is an empowering feeling that a woman has having their baby at home," she said. "This experience and having loved ones around brings the family closer together because they shared that experience."

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