The Women’s Resource Center hosted a panel on pursuing a career as a midwife, including the significance and cultural relevance of the history of midwifery in New Mexico.

The panel included Kristen Ostrem, who has been working as a midwife since 1996. She is also currently teaching at the University of New Mexico through the College of Nursing. She graduated from UNM’s midwifery program, the same six-semester-long program she teaches at now.

There were two other panel members — Donyelle Miller, who is currently working at Dar a Luz birthing center and graduated from UNM last year, and Brittany Simplicio, who has been practicing for five years. She currently works at UNMH as a midwife and graduated from UNM’s program several years ago.

According to Ostrem, there is a rich history of midwifery in New Mexico.

The event featured a video focused on the history of curandera parteras — or healer midwives — in New Mexico and their role in laying the groundwork for the midwifery that exists in New Mexico today.

Curandera parteras were the women that delivered babies and provided holistic healing for the mother in Hispanic communities throughout New Mexico long before modern midwifery became what it is today.

Native American communities also had similar healers, according to the video.

According to Anna Allegretti, an employee at the WRC, the rich history and cultural significance of midwives in New Mexico was one of the main reasons why the WRC decided to feature the panel as a way to celebrate Women’s History Month.

According to Miller, UNM has one of the best programs in the country for becoming a midwife.

UNM’s program has ranked in the top 10 programs nationally, since the program began over 20 years ago, Ostrem said.

One of the program’s missions is for midwives to go out and serve rural New Mexicans and give back to community, she said.

“What I love about midwifery is that we can provide options and choices for women,” Miller said.

There are three different places midwives can deliver babies: homes, birth centers and hospitals. Simplicio currently works at UNMH as a hospital midwife and said her goal is to protect hospital birth.

“Midwifery provides women with...options, but my ultimate passion is protecting birth in the hospital,” Simplicio said.

Simplicio said she would highly recommend home births when possible, because home births allow the woman to have her child where she is most comfortable.

According to Miller, Dar a Luz works to collaborate with UNMH so that when the birth comes and the mother or child has any unexpected complications, they can be transported to UNMH and cared for by a hospital midwife.

“Healthy care has becoming more and more consumer-driven, because it increases transparency and it improves outcome(s) and that’s great, ” Ostrem said.

“Being a midwife is about patient-centered care. We seek to provide women with as many options throughout their pregnancy, so that their care is personalized,” she said. “We work with our patients on everything from pain management to providing options for the actual birth to postpartum care.”

Miller echoed Ostrem’s sentiments about the physical and mental benefits that midwifery can have on the birthing process.

“Midwifery is not just being at a birth — but being completely present with women...We want the birthing experience to beautiful and strong,” Miller said.

Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at, or on Twitter @megan_holmen.