DOVER, Del. (WBOC)- Midwives are asking Delaware to change its rules on their profession. The midwives say right now it is nearly impossible for even fully-certified midwives to help an expecting mother through an at-home, no-doctor birth.
Susan DiNatale is a midwife in Dover - a midwife who says she isn't actually allowed to do that job.
"I got a phone call from a young woman last week who said that if she can't have a midwife, then she and her husband are going to do it themselves. And it broke my heart," she said.
State regulations require a midwife to have a "collaborative agreement" with a licensed obstetrician. The midwives want the rule removed.
"No obstetrician will sign a written collaborative agreement," said Lori Serabo, who lives in Elkton, Md. "You can't get a permit to work, because nobody is willing to back up the midwife. There is one midwife licensed in the state, but she can only attend the Amish and Mennonite."
Dr. Robert Hartmann's practice is the one that has the collaborative agreement with that one midwife. He says it's a good relationship.
But he would not have a collaborative agreement with a midwife working with the general population. He says a doctor is essential, especially when there's an issue for the baby or mom.
"She's got a medical problem requiring a little bit more knowledge. That's when she needs me. But you can't predict who that will happen to."
Plus, Dr. Hartmann says doctors worry about being held liable if they enter into an agreement with a midwife and something happens.
"It's a giant concern," he said. "Society is litigious."
"They're not liable," said Serabo. "It's a myth of implied liability."
Hartmann says he wouldn't want to be the test case on that.
Still, DiNatale would like collaborative agreements eliminated. She says in the end this isn't just about the midwives and the doctors. It's about the parents-to-be.
"They want to do it their way," said DiNatale. "We just want to support that choice."
The Delaware Department of Public Health sent WBOC a statement supporting the practice of midwifery but also affirming the importance of the collaborative agreement system currently in place.