In the wake of growing alarm over the disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S., maternal health experts have been pushing for changes — including expanding the midwife workforce. Studies have shown that deliveries attended by midwives tend to have fewer complications and better outcomes, partially because midwife training relies less on medical intervention, leading to fewer C-sections.
The number of credentialed midwives — including both certified nurse-midwives, who can attend births in hospital settings, and a minority of certified midwives, who don’t hold a nursing degree — in the U.S. more than doubled from 1991 and 2012 and has continued to grow steadily in the years since. Universities have also expanded their course offerings, with the number of new students enrolled in accredited midwifery programs growing from 1,006 students in 2014 to 1,214 in 2018, according to the latest data available. Yet the workforce continues to be not only small, but racially homogenous: More than 90% of midwives are white.