SHERIDAN — Those practicing and licensed in midwifery in Wyoming have endured a slow, steady process of making the practice acceptable and affordable for expectant mothers. Recent legislation will further the effort by allowing certain licensed professionals coverage under Medicaid.
Gov. Mark Gordon signed House Bill 43 into law Feb. 15, and it will become effective July 1. Before the bill, state statute only allowed midwifery service coverage for pregnant women receiving services from a certified nurse midwife licensed by the board of nursing. The bill will now allow midwives licensed by the board of midwifery to also be covered under Medicaid.
Jacqueline Lopez lives in Gillette and has provided midwifery services to clients throughout the state of Wyoming for the past four years. The license she earned — certified professional midwife — is legal in approximately 30 states, while the other states outlaw the practice under that particular licensure. The practice itself is still gaining traction and becoming more professional, and the bill was another step in the direction of allowing women to have options throughout the birthing process.
“I went that route because it’s the only credential to where you have only out-of-hospital training,” Lopez said. “We do home birth and birth-center birth…and that’s what I felt passionate about.”
OBGYN doctors, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives all receive professional training in hospitals. While nurse midwives can do out-of-hospital births, no training is required outside of a hospital setting for the nurse midwife certification.
Lopez completed a bachelor’s degree in biology, followed by four years at the Midwives College of Utah.
To practice within the state of Wyoming, midwives must also acquire credentials vetted through the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council. Fourteen women are listed as accredited midwives on the Wyoming Board of Midwifery website, with eight of those hailing from neighboring towns in Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Montana.
The overall practice is becoming more commonplace, which both Lopez and Patricia Schwaiger — a licensed midwife in Montana and Wyoming and chairperson for the Wyoming State Board of Midwifery — believe to be a step forward. Schwaiger called the bill a “wonderful change” for the state.
“(The midwifery licensure is) an up-and-coming credential,” Lopez said. “Our education system and our requirements are changing, so we’re becoming more professional and we’re changing the definition of midwife as far as requirements.”
Wyoming gained state licensure in 2010 and has since been improving the system. The overall goal of midwives in Wyoming is to enable women to have a choice on the how they will birth their children. Although midwives only accept clients with low-risk births, Lopez anticipates the passing of the bill to increase clientele in the future, which may result in overloaded requests for the small group of midwives traversing the state to provide the service.
“With the internet and access to resources and research, people are really starting to seek out their own information and understand that they can have a choice as far as who and where they want to deliver,” Lopez said.
With a highlight being continuity of care and, now, affordability, midwives anticipate an increase in service requests going forward.