MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - After more than four decades, five Alabama midwives received licenses Friday to practice as a midwife. This can give some expecting mothers more options when delivering.
Midwives help a woman through her pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum care.
Noel Leithart has ten children and for many of their births she had a midwife assist her.
“So for my fifth and six child I used an underground midwife here in Alabama," said Leithart.
During this time Alabama was not issuing licenses for midwives. This is something the state stopped giving out in the 70′s, making options for moms-to-be very limited.
During one of Leithart’s pregnancies, she even crossed the state line when her midwife became sick.
“So I drove over to Georgia and used a midwife I had used for my fourth child," she said.
Leithart is just one example of a mother who wanted a midwife to help with her pregnancy. In 2017, supporters of midwifery rallied at the statehouse. They said they wanted a choice to have a midwife during labor at home.
And that year 2017, legislation made it legal to issue licenses.
“It just happened and took a lot of people by surprise," Leithart said.
People choose to have midwives for many reasons.
“People believe that because birth is a normal, physiological function and it happened for thousands of years at home, it is just a normal thing that can happen at home," she said.
Other reasons include mothers not wanting to drive to a hospital. Leithart said there are many midwives who travel to rural areas.
“Because the midwife travels to the mom it is much more convenient for the mom and safer for her to deliver in her home and not on the road when she is trying to get to the hospital,” she said.
Leithart is a member on the Alabama Board of Midwifery. She said there are more applicants in the pipeline to receive a license.
Opposition cites health concerns as a reason not to license midwives.
Leithart said there are requirements to be a midwife in Alabama. Some of them include being a certified professional midwife, which in part includes participating in an apprenticeship and eight hour written exam.