LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Mothers and attorneys have reached out to us saying they feel women are being forced to undergo health examinations and procedures they should be able to deny. They say it is simply because they choose to use midwives.
Attorney Kesha Chiappinelli said women are getting good care from midwives and she believes that Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) clinicians are not properly trained on what midwifery is and what type of care the clients see. That’s why she is working to help change ADH policies that require women using midwives to undergo multiple exams and tests or else they'll lose their midwife.
“They are already getting prenatal care from their midwife in the comfort of their own home,” said Chiappinelli.
She said people are getting care by trained midwives who go through an extensive licensing process. She said many moms feel it is enough and they don't want extra clinic visits and tests. Chiappinelli said that legally, choosing care should be a personal decision just like mothers have who give birth in a hospital setting.
“They are trying to speak up at clinic visits and decline tests and procedures, but they are being told that they have to do things,” she said.
Hannah Burelson is a mother who chose to hire a midwife. She felt the required ADH exams and tests were unfair, but knew that she would have to comply in order to keep her midwife. She claimed she was treated unfairly during her appointments with ADH clinicians.
“It was, frankly, just unprofessional and out of line,” said Burleson. “[The clinician] started asking me if I was really comfortable with my decision to do a home birth and kept asking if I was scared.”
She said the clinician told her she had to take certain tests or risk losing her midwife.
“It just seemed redundant to me to be tested on things that would make no difference on the outcome in terms of what I would do at my birth,” she said.
She went ahead and took the tests, but didn't receive any antibiotics or treatments. She said the tests should have never been required and her baby’s health was not at risk. After her personal experience and hearing similar stories from other women, she's using her voice to make a change for all women who choose to use a midwife.
“We should be equally as respected in our decision as women who do hospital births," she said.
The Arkansas Department of Health issued a statement in response to the concerns:
“The Arkansas Department of Health has worked collaboratively with the Midwifery Advisory Board (MAB) to update the Rules and Regulations governing the practice of lay midwifery in Arkansas. The role of the MAB is to advise the ADH and Board of Health on the matters pertaining to the regulation of midwifery. They advise on quality improvement and promote the safe practice of midwifery. After over two years of working with the ADH on these revisions, the MAB voted to approve these changes and for the updated Rules and Regulations to be presented for consideration to the Arkansas State Board of Health on April 27.
The updates made to the Rules and Regulations continue to advance the professionalism of licensed lay midwives in Arkansas by increasing training and certification requirements, while also providing for standardization of care and safe practices for pregnant women and their babies who are under the care of a licensed lay midwife.
These rules include certain conditions under which women may continue care with a licensed lay midwife past 40 weeks, as well as circumstances that provide for women to opt out of certain tests and procedures. Requirements also include a documented plan of care, and other measures that ensure the safety of women and their babies. The rules also allow for the option of transfer of care to a clinician by either the mother or the licensed lay midwife at their discretion."
After the draft rules and regulations are proposed and voted on by the Board of Health, they will move forward in the administrative procedures process, which will include a 30-day public comment period.