Midwives have historically played an important role in South Carolina’s maternity care system. South Carolina had one of the largest populations of practicing “granny” midwives in the South, with up to 4,000 in the 1920s. Granny midwifery refers to the Southern African-American tradition of experientially trained older women attending births. These midwives were vital in improving health outcomes for mothers and babies, especially in rural and impoverished communities where hospitals or physicians were inaccessible.
In the 1970s many states began to ban midwifery in an effort to eliminate granny midwives. In 1982, South Carolina was one of the first states to start licensing and regulating direct-entry midwives. Today, South Carolina’s direct-entry midwives are apprentice-trained and required to complete a state-approved educational program as a requirement for licensure.
The licensed midwifery community has remained small but has recently experienced a growth surge. Women and families can choose to birth at home or in a free-standing birth center under the care of licensed midwives. South Carolina also offers certified nurse-midwifery care in several hospitals and private OB/GYN practices. Certified nurse-midwives are trained as nurses with an advanced degree in nurse-midwifery.
Families in South Carolina are fortunate to have so many options for maternity care. It is imperative to keep all options accessible.
Public Policy Co-Chair
S.C. Birth Coalition