Midwifery

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It used to be that women typically gave birth in home-like environments. Today most women head to the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that across the U.S., one in every three mothers has a cesarean delivery.  

Recently, Inside Appalachia won first place in Public Radio News Directors Inc.’s (PRNDI), Long Documentary category for an episode titled “Hippies, Home Birth and the History of Birthing Babies in Appalachia.”

Patricia Harman is the author of the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River. We last heard from her during our April, 2016 Inside Appalachia episode on home birth. Harman's latest book – the Runaway Midwife – was released today. Kara Lofton talked with Harman about how more than three decades of work as a midwife informs her writing today.  

On Being a Midwife

"One of the things about midwives is similar to a solider or someone in combat we're right on the border between life and death and I think that makes for a great hero."

Kara Lofton/ WVPB

The rugged Appalachian mountains can create some interesting birthing situations and it’s been that way for a long time. It used to be that women typically gave birth in home-like environments. Today most women head to the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that across the U.S., one in every three mothers has a cesarean delivery.  

More and more women seem to want to reclaim this ancient rite of passage as their own by having their babies at home. A recent study in Oregon found that home births are riskier than having a baby at a hospital. The study was published The New England Journal of Medicine

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In a tiny basement living room in southwestern Virginia, two women and their husbands listen to Joanna Davis talk about what might go wrong during their births.

“So this is an Ambu bag, and if your baby was in trouble and needed help breathing this is what we would use,” she begins.

Davis is a home birth midwife based in southwestern Virginia, but serves a significant swath of central Appalachia. Several months ago, she held a birthing class for two families interested in using her services.