Tragic Home Birth Leads To Midwife Licensing Debate

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After the tragic loss of her first-born child, Margarita Sheikh is pushing for her state to regulate and license midwives, but also for other pregnant women to reconsider having their children at home.

No woman should have to endure the pain and suffering that Sheikh went through when two unlicensed midwives kept her home and cut off from friends and family through eight days of labor. Eight days! After all that, her son only lived for a few minutes after he was born.

Sheikh was drawn to home birth with midwives after her first couple appointments with a traditional OB-GYN. The quick, informal meetings made the first-time mom feel uneasy. So instead, she decided to have two midwives help her through her pregnancy and labor. Looking back on her experience, the mother says, “In my head I was trying to do the best for my son. I really did think that was the best way to bring him into this world. I just regret not asking for help outside of the midwives.”

Margarita’s tragedy is causing politicians in Oregon to reconsider their licensing laws for midwives. Right now, they are one of only two states where midwives have a voluntary licensing program. State Representative Mitch Greenlick is looking to change that. “I think we ought to make sure that just as when we’re dealing with chiropractors, or naturopaths, or physicians or acupuncturists, we’re making sure that the people who are practicing this health profession are doing it to the highest standards they possibly can. And if they’re not licensed, we don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. However, a representative from the Oregon Midwifery Council believes that the current voluntary system is working and that the majority of planned home births are performed by licensed midwives.

Margarita Sheikh’s story is a heart-wrenching one. She said that by the end of her agonizing labor, she knew that she needed to call 911, but was too mentally and physically exhausted to follow through.

I think that the most important lesson to be learned is that giving birth is a still dangerous. If you choose to have a home birth, you need to research the midwives and doulas that you’re working with. You need to discuss a plan for emergencies. If a home birth is an important part of your birthing plan, you need to be pro-active in making sure that you and your baby will be taken care of.

This story brings tears to my eyes. And it proves that more information needs to be available for women who are trying to decide the best plan for their family.


  1. CW

    November 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    While I’m in favor of allowing women to choose homebirths, I personally think they are most suited for moms who have had previous uncomplicated deliveries. First-time moms have a higher risk of something going wrong and needing emergency medical treatment.

  2. Jenna

    November 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Home birth can be an amazing and safe experience, and my heart breaks for this poor woman. Those “midwives” should have known she needed to be transferred to a hospital, not every birth CAN happen at home, that’s why you hire a midwife, because they are supposed to know, and take care of you. I fully support midwives being licensed professionals.

  3. Midwife

    November 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I am heartbroken for this mother. There is nothing like the pain of losing a child, especially with event that cause her to question the decisions that she and the people who she trusted to take care of her made.

    Unfortunately, this is not a simple solution. Licensing midwives really has little to do with this outcome and more to do with the decision making process that these midwives made. I was not there and make it a policy to avoid judgement. However, there has been one aspect of the story that bothers me the most. It is that the mother expressed a desire to transfer and was kept from her family and friends by the midwives. This is absolutely uncalled for. I trust the instincts of a mother over my own and there is nothing to gain by keeping a woman home when she doesn’t want to be there. Fear will take over and she will have a dysfunctional labor because of it. So, even if I think that nothing is wrong I always transfer at the mother’s request.

    Laws make things complicated and convoluted sometimes…there are benefits to licensing midwives, but there are also many, many reasons why women should be free to make decisions about birth without the regulations of the government because those regulations often come laced with medical protocols which have no place in birth.

    We have a tendency in this country to throw a law at everything…but instead why don’t we throw some common sense in there and trust that woman can gain awareness about the types of midwives there are out there and let them decide who they want to hire to care for them. Midwifery is about the woman and the child and laws often detract from that by causing the midwife to work under protocols that do not best serve the woman and the child but instead to protect her license.

  4. Kay

    November 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I feel for the mother, it must be tragic to lose a child. It is unfortunate in all circumstances. Whenever a home birth goes awry it is all over the news with calls for policy changes. But tragedies happen with hospital births as. Women have been birthing safely at home for our entire existence. Only in the last century has hospital birth been available. We need to remember and respect that. Women have a right to birth at home, but also the choice now to go to a hospital.
    Again this is really unfortunate for the mother, but I really hope people understand that the majority of home births are not like this one.

    • Stacy21629

      April 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      “Tragedies” like this DO NOT happen in the hospital. Babies that die in the hospital are born to mothers with pre-existing conditions, have congenital defects or suffer unpredictable conditions like a cord prolapse or placental abruption.
      The *majority* of women birthed safely at home in the past, but a FAR larger proportion also DIED as compared to today.
      Unfortunately the majority of home birth DEATHS are exactly like this one.

  5. Heather

    November 3, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I agree, what a heartwrenching story. But, I think the final conclusion the author makes, that more information needs to be available, isn’t really the takeaway. The woman had seen an OB and chosen two midwives, and after talking with all of them and even making an alternative choice, I’m sure she had plenty of information. I think the real problem here might be the lack of continuous care and cooperation between physicians and midwives. I’m sure she knew that the hospital existed, and she says she thought to call 911 — the problem was just a breakdown in the decision-making process. It’s a shame, imo, that women are he ones that have to make these decisions in the moment when they are exhausted/confused or even undergoing serious complications with pregnancies, instead of just automatically having a system in place where each midwife also works with and is in contact with a backup physician. That way, if a labor went on for several days, there would be a medical professional trained to deal with the complications who would be weighing in on the case. This is how many European childbirth systems work, and it could be beneficial to women in the US who want to have a homebirth with a midwife while still having the security of a physician advising on their case.

    • Stacy21629

      April 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Yes, but that’s not how the US regulates midwives. There are 2 classes of midwives – CNMs that are highly trained medical professionals and CPMs (like the ones in this story) that are birth hobbyists at best and could practice in NO OTHER 1st world nation.
      The last thing we need to do is blame the mother because “she knew the hospital existed and she says she thought to call 911”. Isn’t that why she hired a “professional” midwife – to be the professional and make the life or death decisions? What’s the point of a midwife if its still up to the mother to decide to call 911 if she needs help?

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  7. Captainobvious66

    January 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Oregon has a desperate need for regulations. Look at! DEM and CPM are presiding over homebirth tragedies left and right. It’s pathetic when your cosmetologist has to be licensed but not the NM delivering your baby.

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