History of Midwifery in New Mexico

The history of midwifery in New Mexico comes from a long linage of rural, indigenous, and modern midwives. Midwives are often much more to their patients and communities than birth assistants. They are the caregivers and empowerers of women and thusly families and communities. A women’s reproductive life starts long before she has a child and lasts throughout the lifespan. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that midwives should be the principal providers and caregivers for pregnant women, followed by family doctors, with obstetricians involved only in cases of necessity. At Lovelace, we honor this midwife/doctor model set by wise women through the ages.

Traditional medicine practiced by Parteras (Traditional Hispanic Midwives) was provisioned for licensing since 1912 in New Mexico, protecting midwives from prosecution. However as the last of the remaining Parteras in New Mexico were dying off moves were being made to change the laws. Midwives in Taos, NM moved to preserve the practice of direct-entry midwives as well as certified nurse midwives. One of the very first free standing birth centers was established in Taos, NM where the obstetricians were employed by the midwives, as well as the first college of nurse midwifery was started.

There are two ways to certify as a midwife in New Mexico. The first being a direct-entry midwife. Prospective midwives must follow a licensed direct-entry midwife as an apprentice and mentor until ready to test and license. As a direct-entry midwife you can only practice as a homebirth midwife and keep statistics of your patients. To certify as a nurse midwife you must complete a nurse midwifery master’s program and apprentice within the clinical and hospital setting. Lovelace employs Certified Nurse Midwives who practice with OB/GYNs for a full spectrum of safe, quality care.

New Mexico is one of only 10 states that provides midwifery care under Medicaid and where midwifery has a long uninterrupted history. With this continuity, New Mexico has established one of the lowest cesarean birth rates in the nation. Lovelace Women’s Hospital and Lovelace Westside Hospital employ midwives as a crucial part of women’s health and not just during childbirth. Midwives also see women throughout the lifespan and can assist with well birth control options, well women exams and menopause. The term midwife actually stands for “with women” and they truly are in every sense and through every season.

For an appointment with a Certified Nurse Midwife, please call Lovelace Labor of Love at 505.727.7677 or email laboroflove@lovelace.com

Blog submitted by Kristin Dawe, Childbirth Educator and Community Health Worker with Lovelace Labor of Love, edited by Catherine Roth, Certified Community Health Worker with Lovelace Labor of Love.