What is a Midwife?

Midwife Kat

Wondering if midwifery care is the best option for you?

If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, you may be beginning to explore your options for the type of birth you would like to have. You probably have friends who have given birth in hospitals and may also know people who have used midwives or even had home births. But what exactly is a midwife and how does one compare to a doctor? Good question!

Simply put, midwives care for the well-being of mothers and infants during the prenatal, birthing and postnatal periods. Although in most countries midwives are the primary care providers for pregnant women, in the US they only comprise approximately 10 percent of births. They are responsible for helping mothers sustain healthy pregnancies and have meaningful and safe birth experiences in addition to providing recovery support and infant care. Similar to doctors, midwives are trained to give physical exams, detect complications, order laboratory work and screening tests, and counsel and educate the mother to be. They also are qualified to deliver babies not only in hospitals but also in birthing centers.

Where midwifery is often said to stand apart from standard OB/GYN care is in the level of personalized attention and the ‘woman-centered’ approach. Midwives strive to promote the practice of normal birth that is medication and intervention free. Whereas movies and television tend to sensationalize birth as a painful and dramatic experience in a medical setting, midwives help to facilitate the natural birthing process in a calm and comfortable environment for mom. Because their all-inclusive approach aims to support women physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, midwives play an integral role in not only the life of the mother but also the entire family. 

Unlike doctors, midwives come from a variety of training backgrounds. There are three types of midwives in the US: Certified Professional Midwives, Certified Nurse-Midwives and Direct Entry Midwives

Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives are educated in similar extensive training programs requiring graduate level education. CNMs however, have the nursing component in their education and typically only practice in clinical and hospital settings. Certified Professional Midwives specialize in birth outside of hospital settings including home births and independent birthing centers. Both Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives have met the requirements for certification by their respective Boards, the North American Registry of Midwives and the American College of Nurse Midwives. Direct Entry Midwives however are midwives who have been trained in the discipline through apprenticeship, self-study or a school or program that is specific to the practice of midwifery. All midwives follow a model of care that emphasizes the normalcy of the process of pregnancy and birth and that places the utmost priority on caring for all aspects of the mother’s well-being.

Now that you know what a midwife is and what they do, here are some reasons that this approach to obstetrical care might be for you: 

1. You want a warm and inviting birthing environment 

Health Foundations Birthing Suite

Health Foundations Birthing Suite

With the exception of CNMs, most midwives practice in out-of-hospital settings like birthing centers and private homes. Because of this, your birthing atmosphere is more likely to be homelike, quiet and calm with no beeping.

2. You want more personalized care

Midwives tend to be more intimately involved in your pregnancy and birthing process than doctors. Your midwife will typically spend more time with you to develop your personalized birthing plan and to ensure that you are healthy not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

3. You want to avoid unnecessary interventions

Often in hospitals if your labor is not progressing quickly enough, they will administer drugs to speed up the process. The drugs can then cause the mother to have more painful contractions that consequently end up leading to the decision to have an epidural. The epidural tends to slow the progress of labor again which can ultimately lead to the decision to perform a C-section. Under the care of a midwife, you will not be rushed through your labor. All efforts will be made to respect your wishes of a natural birth and help you control your pain using alternative methods such as massage, acupressure, showers and baths, homeopathy and changing positions.

4. You want to be able to move around during your labor 

Midwives encourage mothers to try a variety of different positions throughout their labor to ensure that they are comfortable and progressing steadily. In hospitals, you will often be hooked up to IVs and monitors that necessitate staying in your bed. Your midwife will instead monitor your baby intermittently so that you can move about freely while laboring.  

5. You want to know who will be delivering your baby ahead of time

Often with traditional OB/GYN and hospital care, you will not know the doctor who will be on duty the day of your delivery.  Because midwifery care is aimed to be a more personalized experience, your midwife or members of your midwifery team with whom you have already developed a trusting relationship will most certainly be present on the day of your birth. 

Overall, midwives are a great option for women seeking a traditional, natural, and personal birthing experience and who wish to develop a trusting and rewarding relationship with their caregiver. Many midwives also perform regular wellness and primary healthcare that extends beyond the time of your pregnancy and birth. If you are high risk or are experiencing any complications in your pregnancy, consider combining the care of an obstetrician and a midwife. At Health Foundations, you can also elect to experience our Birthing Center’s quality of personalized care in a hospital setting under the care of our own Dr. Dennis Hartung. To learn more about the choice to have a midwife assist you in your pregnancy and birth journey, contact Health Foundations to schedule a consultation or schedule a tour of our Birthing Center.

The team at Health Foundations is seeking to redefine the maternity and women’s health care experience in America. P.S. We're hiring!

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