Midwives have become much more accepted over the past 20 years. Many hospitals, including Central Washington Hospital, have midwives on staff and homey birthing rooms where families can have more control over a birth with the help of a midwife or doctor.
Midwife assisted births increased from less than one-half of 1 percent of all Washington births in 1975 to nearly 11 percent in 2002, according to state birth records. Out-of-hospital births, however, are far fewer, accounting for only 2 percent of all births in the state, 1,588 in 2002. National percentages are lower yet.
Currently, there are six midwives listed as working in North Central Washington, according to listings by the Midwives’ Association of Washington State and Midwives of Washington. Five work in hospitals or clinics in Wenatchee, Tonasket, Brewster, Grand Coulee and Ellensburg.
Midwife Laurie Braunstein is the only one who does home births. She has delivered more than 750 babies during her 21 years of practice in the Wenatchee Valley. More than half of those births took place in private homes with the remainder in Braunstein’s Wenatchee Birth Center.
Doctors at Central Washington Hospital, by comparison, deliver about 1,200 babies a year, said Winnie Warren, the hospital’s director of obstetrics.
Since 1999, close to 1,000 births were assisted by midwives that have been on staff at the hospital, she said.
Of the remaining hospital births, obstetrician Kevin Pitts has delivered more than 5,700 babies since 1990.