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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A growing midwife program may fill a pressing need in Indiana, as recent data from the Indiana Department of Health has shown a rise in the maternal mortality rate. 

Ascension St. Vincent says its midwife program is growing in popularity and is a mix of “more natural childbirth” in a hospital setting. Studies show midwives can help reduce maternal and infant death rates and increase access to care.

“For those low-risk women who are looking for a partnership in their pregnancy and delivery, we really have something special to offer,” Stephanie Crowell, a certified nurse midwife at Ascension St. Vincent, said.

Crowell is a licensed, board-certified healthcare provider who has an advanced degree in nursing and she delivers babies in the hospital.

“A lot of studies have been done that show that midwives really decrease maternal and infant mortality rates,” Crowell said.

The maternal mortality rate in Indiana is on the rise, according to the Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee 2022 Annual Report from the state department of health. The state’s report says 79% of pregnancy-associated deaths and 77% of pregnancy-related deaths in 2020 were preventable. 

According to the “Impact of Midwives,” a study published in the Lancet Global Health and the National Library of Medicine in 2022, worldwide, even a modest increase in coverage of midwife-delivered interventions could avert 22% of maternal deaths, 23% of neonatal deaths, and 14% of stillbirths.

“A lot of studies have been done that show that midwives really decrease maternal and infant mortality rates because they really promote access to care,” Crowell said. “They can be readily available, they can be used in rural areas, which is a big part of lacking in-patient care and patients being in patient care deserts where there are no OB-GYNs in their county or close by, and so midwives, if they were used more frequently, could really fill some of those gaps and really help give patients access to the care they need.”

According to Crowell, midwives deliver about 10% of the babies in the United States and there are just over 200 in Indiana.

“Most certified nurse midwives in the United States work in hospitals. About 85% of them,” Crowell said. “Home birth is certainly a great option for patients who are low risk and have the right situation. But this offers a really happy medium where they can still get that midwife experience with the safety net of a hospital behind them.”

The midwives work with the OB-GYNs and the hospital if any risks develop during pregnancy or birth. 

For Katherine Boyum, an expectant mother, a midwife was the perfect mix.

“They have really let me be in charge of my experience, and so I have always done a natural birth with as little intervention as possible, and my midwives have really listened to and respected that desire of mine,” Boyum said.

Katherine Boyum and family. (Provided Photo/Katherine Boyum)

Boyum already has three boys and is now pregnant with twins. Crowell was by her side for every birth.

“I am definitely nervous. But having Stephanie, who has been there through all of my pregnancies and births, is huge for me,” said Boyum. “Because I really feel like I am with a trusted friend at this point.”

For low-risk births, midwives at Ascension St. Vincent can provide the following care:

It’s a program channeling the past, leaving Boyum confident in the future.

“It is you and your baby and your body so you get to decide how you want it to go,” Boyum said.