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UMMC reintroduces midwifery to combat state’s high infant mortality rates

UMMC midwife
Photo courtesy of UMMC

With recent studies showing that the Magnolia State has the highest infant mortality rate, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) is stepping in with a familiar method to help provide quality care for mothers and babies.

With the addition of licensed nurse-midwives Janice Scaggs and Kim Rickard to UMMC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the university is reintroducing midwifery as a viable option for delivering healthy babies and keeping mothers safe during childbirth.

UMMC plans to train more prospective nurse-midwives and introduce a minimum of eight certified ones in hospitals and clinics in the metro Jackson area and surrounding counties, to offer round-the-clock service by 2027.

According to the World Health Organization, midwifery is an evidence-based approach to reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. It suggests that midwife-led care contributes to more efficient use of health system resources by decreasing interventions like cesarean sections for low-risk deliveries, epidural use, and instrument-assisted births.

RELATED: Doctors are performing too many unnecessary C-sections, expert suggests

Today, there are only 20 to 30 certified nurse midwives licensed by the Mississippi Board of Nursing and even fewer practicing in the state, with many students opting to seek employment in other states upon graduation. Only about two percent of births in Mississippi are attended by midwives, but evidence suggests that midwife-led care for women yields positive birth outcomes.

Studies show that the use of midwives during pregnancy significantly reduces low birth weight and preterm birth rates, increases breastfeeding rates, and improves psychosocial well-being outcomes such as postpartum depression.

Experts predict that if midwifery care in the U.S. increases from 8.9 percent to 20 percent by 2027, it could result in $4 billion in cost savings, 30,000 fewer preterm births, and 120,000 fewer episiotomies.

If the initial efforts of reintroducing midwifery prove successful, UMMC will explore further expansion of services and educational opportunities in Mississippi, specifically in areas that are considered maternity deserts.

For those interested, patients can currently be seen by a nurse-midwife at the UMMC Grant’s Ferry location in Flowood or at Wiser Women’s Hospital where they provide patient care three days a week.

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