Home births increase over 20% – Kentucky women turning to midwives

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. –  The CDC shows that over the first year of the pandemic, home births in the nation increased over 20 percent. Here in Southcentral Kentucky, some women are choosing midwives over hospitals.

When the pandemic began, midwives here were flooded with phone calls, and it quickly became obvious at home births were on the rise. 

Lamaze certified childbirth educator and birth doula Mary Duke cofounded the grassroots organization Kentucky Birth Coalition. They helped pass a bill allowing licenses for certified professional midwives in Kentucky. 

Duke said, “My first baby, I ended up transferring to the hospital and not having the experience I wanted, and so through that, it lit the fire under me to make sure that other families have better choices.”

She’s helped pregnant women like Caitlin Murphy in South Central Kentucky for the last decade with her Lamaze classes.

“Everything I’ve done has always been about creating more options, so people can choose what’s best for them,” Duke said. 

Feeling confident after taking Duke’s Lamaze  classes, Murphy became one of the many women who switched to home birthing for her second pregnancy. 

“I was almost 37 weeks when we went to shut down,” Murphy recalled. “There were a lot of unknowns. Within that week, I felt like it would be a good time for me to switch to a home birth.”

Murphy said her second birth and postpartum care were a much better experience. The pregnant mother is already planning her third child’s home birth. 

“I think that really would’ve been helpful to have someone there to say ‘You’re doing all the right things, and this is how you nurse, and if you’re struggling with this, try this and that was really great’. And, you’re also recovering from having birth, so for me that was a really added bonus, and that is why we decided to have another home for us for our third.”

Duke is working to bring birth centers to Kentucky, so women can choose a middle ground between at home births and hospital births. She’s also advocating for Kentucky Medicaid to cover midwives.