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Looking at the risks of home birth: be careful what midwife you use, P.3

Last time, we continued our discussion of the risks of home birth, the different types of midwives out there, and the requirements in the state of New York for midwives to practice. Unlike other states, New York does not allow a wide open market for midwife services. Rather, all midwives must meet minimum requirements before they are licensed to practice.

Once a midwife is licensed by the New York Board of Midwifery, the path is clear for the individual to practice, but midwives—as licensed professionals—are still held to certain standards of practice. Failure to act according to these standards puts patients at risk and opens up the possibility of malpractice liability.  

There are a variety of ways that midwives can go wrong in their practice, particularly with complicated births. New York state law allows licensed midwives to perform a wide variety of services, but there are certain limits. For example, midwives may not provide care or write prescriptions for men, except for STD treatment. The care that midwives do provide, whether in gynecology or other areas, must be performed according to accepted standards of practice. Failures can occur, for example, in screening for high risk conditions, diagnosing pregnancy-related conditions, delaying medical emergency care, and attempting to go beyond the scope of the midwife’s area of expertise.

Midwives are not required by state law to obtain malpractice insurance, but it would be unwise for them not to do so, given the risks they are likely to face in their work and the potential liability for which they may have to answer. In our next post, we’ll wrap up this discussion and comment briefly on how an attorney can help those harmed by negligent midwife care.


The New York Times, “Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?,” Amy Tuteur, April 30, 2016.

Office of the Professions, “Midwifery—Questions & Answers,” Accessed May 18, 2016. 

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