Friday, July 13, 2007

Is it legal for Florida midwives to do VBACs?

Occasionally one will hear that it is illegal for licensed midwives in Florida to attend VBACs (vaginal birth after Cesarian). Not so, as Sarasota midwife Heidi Dahlborg, LM, explains:
It is legal for a Florida LM to do a primary VBAC, but it does carry a risk score of 3, which requires a consult from a VBAC friendly doctor. Some midwives who can not get consults have mistakenly told people "its illegal to do VBACs at home" when they mean "it is illegal for me to do VBACs at home because I can not get the proper consult to comply with the law".

So you can legally have a VBAC with a homebirth Licensed Midwife, as long as she obtains a consult from a physician with OB privileges. There is a state risk assessment score for LMs that assigns points for various risk factors, and when your points reach 3 for any reason, you must have a consult with a physician that does obstetrics. A prior c-section scores 3 points for "prior uterine surgery". Prior uterine surgery with a subsequent successful vaginal birth (a secondary VBAC) is only 2 points. So if the mother has no other point scoring risk factors, she will only have a 2, and thus can have a VBAC with out consult. If she smokes, is over/underweight, or has other factors, she will need a consult based on her overall points. The risk assessment is in the rules, which can be viewed online at under Rules: Chapter 64B24, its a large document and you must scroll down to Chapter 64B24-7, Midwifery until you see the Midwifery Practice Act, which includes the risk assessment. You can also get a risk screening tool from any practicing midwife.

If the midwife also has a birth center, that complicates things further. The birth centers are governed by a separate law, and it says the birth centers can only do VBACS in the birth center if they are participating in the National VBAC study, which has been closed for 7 years. So there has been no way to comply with birth center law, so there is no way to legally do a VBAC in the birth center. But midwives who own birth center will often do VBACs at home, even though they can not do them in the center.

I know an attorney that was drawing up a consent to allow midwives and moms to choose to go outside of the law or rules, as part of the alternative medicine law, but I do not know if anyone actually does that yet.

The American Association of Birthing Centers, the birth center association, is going to open the National VBAC study up again soon, thanks to Charlynn Daughtery a Tampa midwife that own Labor of Love Birth Centers. She has really been a strong VBAC advocate in political circles, working hard to keep VBAC options open at home and birth centers. Once that study open, hopefully in Fall, Florida women will be able to have VBACs in birth centers if the consults are obtained. You can contact them, AABC, to urge them to get the VBAC study opened again.

So, as it stands- in Florida you CAN have a VBAC at home, but not in a birth center, as long as the proper consults are obtained. Many women travel 3 hours or so to get the consult, at around 28 weeks, but you can usually get the consult anytime including preconception. It is generally just a review of your surgical record, and a conversation on risks and benefits.
Thanks, Heidi, for the great explanation!


Karen said...

This is so interesting to me. I guess all my information about vbac in Florida is from watching "House of Babies" on Discovery Health, and I have seen a vbac on that show about the birth center there.

Miriam Pearson-Martinez,M said...

There is a pushing 4 vbacs initiative that is currently working to change the rule governing the birth centers and hopefully allowing it to mirror the rules for midwives. This initiative is sponsored by the Florida Alliance of Birth Center, Birthgirlz, and the Institute of Health & Wellness. is collecting tax deductable donations in order to pay the attorney representing the FABC.

Coyote said...

Is the "study" open again so that Florida midwives can allow VBAC inside birthing centers? Also, can midwives attend hospital VBAC?

Coyote said...

Is the study open again so that midwives can offer VBAC in birthing centers? Also can a midwife attend a hospital VBAC?