The Seattle Times reported this week that the University of Washington School of Nursing is proposing cutting funding to its midwifery program. While it is true that all belts need to be tightened at the University (except the athletic department’s), the midwifery program is an asset to our community here in Seattle*. Natural birthing is an important first gift that a mother can give to her child and herself, but sadly a natural hospital birth is difficult to attain. Mothers are offered interventions without being fully informed by their doctors of the complications that can arise from them and the United States is packing a 31% cesarean rate. Having a nurse-midwife can help mitigate some of those risks since they are are licensed to attend births in hospitals- a happy medium for a family wanting a natural birth and the safety net of being in a hospital or for a higher risk pregnancy that isn’t a candidate for a birth center/home birth. Bastyr University in Wallingford also has a midwifery program, but theirs are licensed midwives, a completely separate category. My midwife was trained at Bastyr, but did not have hospital birthing privileges, so when I was transferred to the UW Medical Center, I was unable to have my practitioner attend my son’s birth.
I don’t know what should be cut instead or how exactly the money should be allocated to keep the program afloat in these difficult times, but I do know that women need midwives, regardless of where they’re birthing and that taking away the midwives ultimately will hurt our society more than another cut might. Without naming department names, I know of a couple that simply don’t serve our culture on anything close to the same level. We should be finding new ways to cut healthcare costs, not cutting the programs that are saving lives and dollars.