Saturday, April 28, 2012

N.A.R.M. (No . Accountability . Renegade . Midwives)

NARM (North American Registry of Midwives) was founded as a branch of MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America) by none other than Ina May Gaskin. This is the private organization responsible for "educating" and "credentialing" what are now referred to as Certified Professional Midwives, formerly called lay midwives, Direct Entry Midwives or Certified Midwives.  If you've read previous posts you know how grossly undereducated these folks are in comparison to nurse midwives, who go to college to earn a degree and spend years in clinical study.

As the sole credentialing body for CPMs, NARM is also responsible for holding its members accountable when they act unprofessionally or negligently. At least, that is what they should do assuming that they are a professional, responsible and ethical organization (which is highly debatable). In my experience, however, filing a complaint with NARM is nothing short of a nightmare. Here, in brief, is what happens when you file a complaint with them:

1) First, submit your letter and complaint to Shannon Anton, CPM. She is, incidentally, the only person who handles allegations for the entire country.

2) Wait weeks, then months for a reply . . . and get none.

3) Email Shannon Anton, leave her several messages, then ask for her manager . . . wait a little longer and then finally get a reply.

4) Shannon Anton will proceed to graciously ask the accused midwives for your records and a statement of their practice.

5) While waiting months again for any further contact, you will anxiously anticipate the assembly of a "peer review panel" (peers meaning a local group of CPMs). In front of this panel, you are supposed to share your birth story/concerns verbally with the accused midwives present in the room.  Immediately following, your family would be asked to leave so the midwives can talk.

6) Instead of a panel being assembled, Shannon Anton will wait months and through persistent follow up on your part, will respond by telling you that she just now (3 months later) received the release to ask for records.  She'll also inform you that she kindly copied the letter of complaint and data so she could also send a copy to the accused midwives. (Wait...what??) 

7) When asking for reciprocal transparency, meaning a copy of any "birth records" sent in response, Shannon will inform you that their policy doesn't allow them to share anything the midwife sends them.

8) In the meantime, a simple google search will show that their entire review board is made of CPMs and that one was recently asked to step down over the death of a breech baby.  (Precisely the kind of birth in your complaint.)

9) The final straw will be learning that even after going through this assembled panel, which was never assembled, the outcome would be a letter of "recommended" changes in practice...not required, but recommended.  The accused midwives, even if found to be negligent are given suggestions.  But rest assured, if you are not satisfied, you can further file a grievance with the organization's board and engage in a conference call to request further actions. 

10) When you email Shannon Anton and tell her what a joke of a process this really is and how insulting it feels on the heels of your baby's preventable death, she won't bother to assemble a panel at all.  She will disappear into the unknown and unseen, never to be heard from again...almost like this never happened.

Due Process? Responsible? Accountable? You decide.  

PS.  If you are unsatisfied with the above stated process, you might think about asking the state to review your case.  In MI they cannot review it because CPMs are not licensed through our state (appropriately so), they are considered "a-legal" and free to practice unregulated, as they wish.  You then might think of reporting your baby's death to the police.  In MI they can't press criminal charges because there are no laws or regulations by which to hold them accountable.  The end result, CPMs walk away without so much as a reprimand.  


  1. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. They should be ashamed. Do you have an address where we could write them to tell how disgusting this is?

    1. Sure do, great idea! Thank you.

      NARM Accountability
      Shannon Anton
      PO Box 128
      Bristol, VT 05443

  2. Thank you explaining this process. I had no idea. I am deeply saddened that you, or anyone else, has to go through this; I am exceptionally grateful that you are making it so that no will have to in the future.

  3. I'm very curious as to how accountability differs here in California who does license non-nurse midwives.
    What is your opinion on what their training and expertise is given that they are overseen and tested by NARM? Wouldn't there be recourse for a victim of negligence or bad care because the state holds their license? I know quite a few women here in Southern California who have had home births with CNMs, CPMs, and LMs. Most of the outcomes were good, except one notable one described on Hurt By Homebirth.
    Anyway, curious if anyone knowledgeable could weigh in.

    1. Hi Laura! Thank you so much for your insightful question. Although we can't answer it, we think we know someone who can. Barbara Herrera (aka the "Navelgazing Midwife") is based in California and might have some helpful information for you. You can find her contact information here:

  4. Shannon Anton is a joke in and of herself. I sent her a complaint about a Kristi Zittle, CPM - and I had to wait MONTHS for a response as well - what a fucking joke (pardon the french but it's the nicest word I could find ;) NARM is.