awesome-NMAlthough originally from Maryland, I am an extremely committed and enthusiastic New Mexican transplant. Seriously, just ask anyone who knows me. I love the sky, I love the mountains, I love the food, I love the people…and oh yeah, I really love being a doula here in New Mexico. Why? Well, aside from the amazing families I serve, it’s the fact that New Mexico is one of the best states to give birth in!

That’s right. For all the griping we hear about the “Land of Entrapment,” there are several reasons why New Mexico is actually an awesome place to become a parent.

Here are 6 reasons why New Mexico is a great state for giving birth!

1. Babies Born With Midwives

24% of babies born in the Land of Enchantment are delivered (or “caught”) by midwives. That is more than any other state in the country. Why is this awesome? Well, according to a 2012 Alibi article, “A 2009 Cochrane meta-analysis (a type of scientific research that compiles data from multiple other studies) evaluated more than 12,000 women and found that midwife-led care increased a woman’s chance of feeling in control during labor, having a spontaneous vaginal birth and initiating breast-feeding. Midwife-led care was found to be as safe or safer than care by physicians or other providers. The study concluded that women without medical or obstetric complications should be offered midwifery services.”

Generally, the midwifery model of care is more personal and individualized. Midwives are experts in low-risk pregnancy and birth. This approach can lead to women and families feeling more satisfied with their care and their birth experiences. New Mexico has many incredible midwives working in hospitals, homes, and birth centers. And did you know that UNM also has one of the best nurse-midwife training programs in the country?

2. Low Cesarean Section Rates

New Mexico has the second lowest rate of cesarean sections in the country, at 22.8%.  This is well below the national average of 32.8%. For New Mexican moms, avoiding a cesarean can mean less complications for mother and baby, a quicker recovery time, and less risk for future pregnancies, among other benefits. For New Mexico as a state, avoiding cesareans means money saved for consumers, hospitals, and insurance companies.

3. High Breastfeeding Rates

Lots of babies are being breastfed here in New Mexico. According to the 2013 edition of the CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card, 85% of babies here were ever breastfed, 46.7% were still being breastfed at 6 months, and 19.3% were exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. These rates are some of the higher ones for the entire nation! Breastfeeding is the biological norm for mother and baby and can promote bonding and lessen health complications throughout a lifetime.

4. Licensed Midwives (LMs) Can Practice

Licensed midwives (or, LMs, many of whom are also additionally certified as Certified Professional Midwives, or CPMs) can practice legally here in New Mexico and are licensed by the New Mexico Department of Health. Most insurance companies, including Medicaid, will cover the cost of a licensed midwife and a home birth in New Mexico. This is not the case in other states around the country; in some states, care providers who are not a CNM (certified nurse midwife) or obstetrician must practice in secret because they are not recognized by the government. When different types of care providers are able to work in the open, together, birthing people have more choices and outcomes are better.

5. Birth Centers

New Mexico has more than a few great birth centers, which provide a terrific option if you do not want either a hospital or a home birth. There is Dar a Luz here in Albuquerque, Breath of My Heart Birthplace in Española, and the brand new La Clinica Birth and Health Center in Silver City. Sadly, the famous Northern New Mexico Birth Center in Taos is closing, but it has long provided great, positive care to women in that area.

6. Baby-Friendly Hospitals

First, some background on what “Baby-Friendly” means: the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program started by the World Health Organization in 1991 which recognizes hospitals that provide optimal levels of mother-baby care. The World Health Organization has developed ten steps that ensure that hospitals and birthing facilities are baby and breastfeeding friendly. The steps include practicing rooming in (where mother and baby are together 24 hours a day) and making sure breastfeeding is initiated within an hour of birth. Hospitals must undergo a process to become certified as Baby-Friendly.

So far, two hospitals in New Mexico have been certified Baby-Friendly!! They are Zuni Comprehensive Health Center in Zuni, NM and Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces. Several others, including Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces and all three of the local hospitals in Albuquerque, are on the pathway to certification. The New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force is actively working towards helping New Mexican hospitals become Baby-Friendly. UPDATE: UNM and Presbyterian in Albuquerque are now both Baby-Friendly!

So there you have it, a few of the reasons why giving birth in New Mexico can actually be pretty darn awesome for moms, babies, fathers, partners, families and the community. Sure, there is lots of room for improvement in making New Mexico a good state for families as a whole, but there are still many positive practices going on right here in the Land of Enchantment.