Midwives have long been a pillar of American medicine.
They help women to prevent and treat childbirth complications, deliver babies safely and, most importantly, give birth in a safe environment.
But now, they’re being priced out of business.
The costs of midwifery in the United States have risen over the past decade, according to a recent study by the nonprofit Midwifing America.
In 2017, the median midwife wage for midwives was $90,000, according the National Midwife Conference.
And by 2026, the average midwife is projected to earn just $53,000.
The median price of a midwife’s license in the U.S. is $8,000 annually, according To Health, a nonprofit organization that helps to manage women’s health care.
Midwives are also getting less generous compensation than their colleagues in other fields, which has made them less valuable as a provider of care.
“The median income for a midwifer has actually fallen from roughly $100,000 to $70,000 over the last decade,” said Joanne T. Gorman, president and CEO of the National Organization for Women, which represents midwives.
Midwifts are a staple of American culture.
Midwifeing has been a key part of American health care since the mid-1800s.
The practice is a vital part of women’s lives in a country where women make up nearly half of the workforce and often have to work long hours to provide for their families.
Midways have become a cultural icon, and it’s hard to imagine that changing anytime soon.
As the costs of medical care and midwifaing have escalated, more and more women are deciding they can no longer rely on midwives for care, said Emily M. Smith, senior vice president and chief medical officer at the Midwift Alliance, a trade group representing the midwives’ trade association.
Smith said the industry needs to be able to compete with other health care providers and to provide care that is culturally appropriate.
Midwaites are often more involved in caring for their patients, she said.
Smith also cited the impact of the Zika virus epidemic, which disproportionately affected women in low-income communities.
Midworkers, who often work in rural areas, face many challenges, including long workdays, lack of access to healthcare and poor access to basic necessities like toilet paper, she added.
Midwomen are the most visible face of the midwife industry, but they’re often overlooked, Smith said.
They are seen as the gatekeepers of women and often face discrimination and mistreatment, she explained.
The U.N. Women’s health agency has called on governments to make midwives pay a fair wage, which it estimates would save them about $1.3 billion a year.
“I know it’s not the goal of the UN, but the women’s agency is really trying to get that right,” Smith said, citing the work of women who work with the UNAIDS.
But the UnaIDS is also urging governments to raise the wage threshold for women who earn less than $150,000 a year, which is $7.60 per hour.
The organization has also urged countries to increase the number of midwives they train.
The government has also been slow to increase pay for midwives, which makes them vulnerable to financial pressures, Smith noted.
“It’s hard for women to have their voices heard when there’s this huge amount of funding out there,” Smith added.
She said that the UVA Midwifter Institute, a non-profit organization that advocates for midwife wages, recently launched a campaign to educate health care workers about the importance of paying their fair share.
Smith is also calling for a better education about midwiftry.
The midwives have a lot to lose by losing the industry, she noted.
Smith and the other members of the Midwives’ Alliance plan to raise awareness about the issue by holding events and educating health care staff on midwiffery and women’s healthcare.
“We want to educate workers on the issue, educate the public, and hopefully start a conversation,” Smith told ABC News.