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Care New England and Women & Infants Hospital Celebrate National Midwifery Week

Care New England is recognizing National Midwifery Week, which runs from September 29 through October 5, 2020. National Midwifery Week was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) to celebrate and recognize midwives and midwife-led care.

According to Elisabeth Howard, PhD, CNM, FACNM, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinician Educator; Director of Midwifery, Women & Infants Hospital, “In 1975, Mary Dowd Struck, the former Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Women and Infants Hospital (1976 - 2006), graduated from Columbia University’s midwifery program and came to Rhode Island, where she was told by the Department of Health that a midwife had not been licensed in RI since 1934, and that they did not have a mechanism in place and no interest in developing one.”


“She began working with the Rhode Island Women’s Health Collective (RIWHC) to make midwifery a viable option for women and families throughout the state. They joined together to conserve a traditional woman-centered birth option and to promote women’s health. The RIWHC was an outgrowth of the Boston Women’s Health Collective which published Our Bodies, Ourselves, in 1978, with the help of the Collective and Governor Garrahy, the mechanism to practice midwifery in Rhode Island was put in place. Women and Infants Hospital then became the first hospital in Rhode Island to credential midwives. Midwives continued to work to pass state legislature measures in 1988 and 1990 expanding the scope of practice and authority of midwives. In 1993, a federal grant enabled the University of Rhode Island to open the first training program for nurse-midwives in the state,” Howard added.


Today, there is a flourishing and growing midwifery community in Rhode Island. At Women and Infants Hospital, there are approximately 27 midwives credentialed to practice, which include full scope practices that provide 24/7 coverage to their clients both in the hospital’s Alternative Birthing Center and the Labor and Delivery Unit, with seamless transition to complex care when needed. An additional practice includes a group of academic midwives who provide care in the Emergency Department, Antepartum Care, Labor, and Mother-Baby Units, working in a team of providers and educating our next generation of physicians. Great strides have been made to make midwifery care available in the last forty years in Rhode Island.


Mary Dowd Struck said, “As one of two licensed midwifes in 1978 I could never have imaged what a vital force midwifery would become in our state. Growth in our numbers, fueled by a first class educational program at URI has provided the women of Rhode Island with the highest quality care.  I couldn’t be prouder of the professional midwives who practice in Rhode Island today.”


According the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), midwifery is grounded in evidence-based practice and professional standards, along with a deep understanding of the normal, natural events in a women’s lifespan. They use an approach to women’s health care based on researched evidence and clinical expertise, while also considering a woman’s own values. The ACNM has joined with other national health care organizations to develop and endorse principles for client safety in childbirth. These principles promote care based on scientific knowledge, respectful coordination of care between different members of the health care team, active involvement of clients and their families in care practices, and a commitment to improving the quality of care. Together, these principles help promote the highest standards for quality and safety in maternity care in the United States.


About Women & Infants Hospital 

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 9th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.