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IN THE MAIL: An option in rural areas: Midwifery

GRAND FORKS -- Recently, North Dakota learned of the closing of the maternity ward at the hospital in Valley City, N.D. One reporter summed up the choices of the laboring mothers in the area with "mothers here will have to plan ahead and take int...

GRAND FORKS -- Recently, North Dakota learned of the closing of the maternity ward at the hospital in Valley City, N.D. One reporter summed up the choices of the laboring mothers in the area with "mothers here will have to plan ahead and take into account the drive to either Jamestown (a distance of 28 miles) or Fargo (a distance of 56 miles)." No other options were mentioned.

Not long ago, the issue of midwifery in North Dakota was raised in the legislative House, with one contemplative member asking if "this might be a viable option for women in rural areas." At the time, the question wasn't answered, and the issue was allowed to die.

I think the time has come to revive that discussion and answer the question with a resounding yes.

With an aging population and more people moving away, it's becoming more costly for hospitals in rural areas to provide maternity services.

Eventually, more -- if not all -- will have to refuse to provide those services so they can cut costs and continue to offer care.

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That means mothers in labor will be left with no choice but to drive, sometimes hours, to a hospital in another city to deliver their babies. And in a state that spends so many months buried in snow and dealing with blizzards, only trouble can come from forcing our mothers in labor to drive long distances to get medical care.

But this is a situation that can be easily solved by passing laws that will make it safer and easier for midwives to provide care -- care that can be given without fear of arrest and criminal charges.

Let the midwives do the driving and our mothers in labor stay at home, secure in the knowledge that a professional, trained midwife will come to her when she's ready to deliver rather than her having to travel to receive care.

Kristin Skrydlak-Simlai

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