What’s a midwife?
If you’re newly pregnant, you may be choosing a health care provider for your pregnancy. What’s a midwife? How are midwives different from OBGYNs? Which one is appropriate for your care?
What’s a midwife?
Midwives are trained health care professionals who have skills and expertise in supporting women through a healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum period, according to the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA). The midwifery model is woman-centered, empowering and used throughout the world.
How’s a midwife different from an OBGYN?
Midwives usually have a philosophy of care that avoids unneeded interventions, such as continuous fetal monitoring, induction of labor or the use of epidural pain medication. The midwifery philosophy includes the belief that pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy life processes.
If your midwife discovers that you have a complicated pregnancy or potential for a complicated birth, she’ll refer you to an OBGYN for evaluation and transfer of care. Midwives are skilled at identifying these situations, noted the American Pregnancy Association.
Midwives also provide annual gynecological exams, family planning, menopause care and education regarding contraception, breastfeeding, nutrition and exercise.
There are several different kinds of midwives. They may practice at home, in free-standing birth centers or in the hospital. Licensure varies by state. A certified nurse midwife (CNM), is trained and licensed in both midwifery and nursing. They must possess a bachelor’s degree or higher and receive certification from the American College of Nurse Midwives. Most practice in clinics and hospitals, noted MANA. Certified midwives don’t have the nursing degree but do similar tasks.
A direct-entry midwife has education in midwifery care but doesn’t have nursing education specifically. They usually provide midwifery care in out-of-hospital settings, such as homes and freestanding birth centers.
Yet another type is the certified professional midwife (CPM), specifically trained in midwifery. They must meet the standards set forth by the North American Registry of Midwives and are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives. MANA explained that most direct-entry midwives in the U.S. are CPMs.
What are the benefits of having a midwife?
The American College of Nurse-Midwives reported that women who chose CNMs compared to OBGYNs showed lower rates of C-sections, lower rates of labor induction, lower use of epidurals and a significant reduction in the occurrence of severe perineal tears during birth.
Women who choose midwives have significantly better chances for normal vaginal births, fewer interventions and higher rates of successful breastfeeding. They also experience a greater sense of control during labor and birth compared to those with OBGYN care.
Only you can decide which care provider is right for your pregnancy and birth, but if you’re low-risk, having a normal pregnancy and want less technological intervention, a midwife could be an excellent choice.
Information on Reid Health’s midwives:
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