Midwife Wendi Cleckner lets Shanda Wallace's daughter, Linden, 2, listen to her sibling's heartbeat. Midwives are working to change state rules.


PHOENIX - The state Department of Health Services is setting up an advisory committee to update state laws regulating midwives, The Arizona Republic reports.

Health officials, who are now accepting panel applications, said the committee will include midwives, clients and physicians. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation calling for the health department to re-examine current law.

State rules now prohibit women who have had C-sections, are pregnant with multiple babies or whose babies are breech from having home births.

Wendi Cleckner, a midwife in Tempe, said it's difficult to turn these women away while she believes a midwife should be allowed to help.

"We know there is a population of women out there that desires an out-of-hospital birth, and due to our laws we can't help them," Cleckner said.

Cleckner said a woman in that situation might try to have a home birth anyway without a midwife.

"And that is not OK on any level," Cleckner said.

Some in the medical field have expressed concern about allowing midwives to be the main caregivers under certain circumstances. A 2011 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opinion advises against home births after a prior Caesarean delivery. It also says there is a higher risk when births of multiple babies or breech babies are involved.

The organization said it does not oppose home births in general, but it states that hospitals and birthing centers are safer.

Sarah Macklin, a Tempe mother who could not deliver her second child with a midwife because of a previous C-section, helped lobby for the legislation. Macklin said there is no reason the state should regulate where a woman gives birth.

"It's important for us in the home-birth community, and women as a whole, to be able to choose," Macklin said.

Some midwives have also called for changes to the licensing process and a national licensing organization to oversee training.

Rohno Geppert, chief of the state health department's licensing office, said it can take up to five years to complete midwife training. Letting the North American Registry of Midwives take over certified training would free up Arizona to only handle licensing.

There are now 64 licensed midwives in Arizona.

"We want to be able to get the whole thing streamlined so someone can get fully licensed (with the state) within a year," Geppert said.

Other suggestions from midwives include updating authorized medications and certain medical procedures. Geppert said he believes an update to the rules will help midwives have a better practice.

"We don't want to be so prescriptive that we aren't innovating along with the technology that's developing," he said. "Right now the rules are a hindrance."