5 Things You Didn't Know About Midwives


midwifeI'll admit, my perception of midwives is just a little skewed. I envision a crunchy, slightly batty woman, with long frizzy gray hair tied up in a bun with a penchant for long, flowing skirts and gauzy scarves. Instead of listening to the baby's heartbeat and checking the protein content of your pee, she'd tsk-tsk about your eating habits and apply herbs to your belly. And don't even think about asking for so much as a Motrin during labor or admitting your baby's going to sleep in a crib.

Wow, was I wrong. We just ended National Midwifery Week last week, and I found out some things I didn't know about midwives.

1. They're highly educated: More than 80 percent of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives (the standards are identical, but certified midwives are not generally nurses) have master's degrees, and any midwife calling herself either a CNM or CM must have been certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board; they also take continuing education throughout their careers.

2. Most work within the medical establishment: Ninety-six percent of midwife-attended births happen in the hospital, and most have relationships with doctors so that if something goes wrong and the "big guns" have to be called in, higher-level help is available. Most, if not all, of the care you'll need during a healthy, normal pregnancy can be handled by a midwife. They also have the authority to write prescriptions in all 50 states.

3. Their work stretches beyond childbirth: They are recognized as primary care providers in all 50 states. Most report that primary care services such as annual exams make up a majority of their work, and more than half consider all aspects of reproductive care as their main job. They can see you for nearly anything you'd see an OB/GYN for.

4. More mothers-to-be are seeking their help: The number of births attended by a CNM or CM peaked at 316,811 in 2006 and held steady for 2007, the last year for which figures are available. American Indian or Alaska Native women are most likely to see a midwife for childbirth services; Asian or Pacific Islander women are the least likely.

5. They take an alternative approach to women's health, but leave the patchouli-scented crunchitude out of it. Instead, their philosophy is to treat puberty, pregnancy, birth, and menopause "as normal life events rather than possible medical emergencies." I like that, a lot. Also? They stay with a woman during the whole birth process. I have no idea how they manage that; do they only take clients with due dates spaced at least two weeks apart? But I love the idea of the health care professional that's been with you your whole pregnancy being there to help you get the baby out, versus an OB swooping in at the last minute to "catch" the baby.

I have an OB/GYN that I love, but if he skips town/starts pissing me off, I think I have been converted to try and find a midwife ... and I am all done with babies, even.

Did you see a midwife during pregnancy and birth? Would you?

Image via eyeliam/Flickr

labor & delivery, pregnancy health


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Jeann... JeannieMS

I had the same midwife both my pregnancies and LOVED the experience for many reasons -- lengthy appointments so I could ask all my questions, on-call assistance 24 hours from conception to six weeks post-partum (which saved my butt with the first one!!) not to mention top-quality care while treating pregnancy as normal and natural and not a sickness. I would totally recommend midwives to anyone with a non-complex pregnancy (as you say, complications are best left to an OB).

ktok2009 ktok2009

I had the same midwife for both of my pregnancies and she was amazing both times. My appointments lasted as long as I needed them too, I was never kept in a waiting room, she was available by e-mail and telephone whenever I had questions and she treated me like a friend, not some random patient. She was a drill sergeant when I needed her to be and a loving, compassionate, and nurturing friend when I needed her to be. She and her assistant were professional without being indifferent to me and my family. I would recommend her to anyone!

medic... medicwife

I did and was incredibly sad that my c-sec prevented this wonderful woman from being the first person to lay eyes on my baby! She is awesome!

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

I saw 2 amazing direct entry midwives during my pregnancy.  I loved them! 

sara_... sara_7106

I saw a midwife throughout my pregnancy and she was absolutely wonderful. When we decide to have a second baby, I won't hesitate to use her again. I'm positve that if I had a dr at my birth that I would have had a c section or a large episiotomy. My dd was face up and I pushed for 5 hours but only ended up with a slight tear that didn't need a stitch. She was calm and encouraging the whole time. I couldn't have asked for more!

nonmember avatar Monzie

I had a midwife for all my prenatal care with my first baby. (And, just for the record, she had a pixie cut and favored cargo pants and Keen sandals.) I labored for 60 hours under her supervision and then, when it became clear that my baby wasn't ever coming out on his own, she accompanied me to the hospital and was at my side during my emergency cesarean. She took the first photos of my baby and carried him out to my squeamish husband in the waiting room while I was being sewn back together. She was amazing and I still consider her a dear friend. When I got pregnant with my second, I was very disappointed to learn that there are no midwives in my area who will take me as a patient. But, unfortunately, most midwives can't (or won't) attend a primary VBAC.

Toddl... ToddlerBrain82

I had two CPM's for the second half of my pregnancy and the HBAC (home birth after c-section) of my second child in March of this year. By the time we had our last appointment with them, they felt like part of the family. They combined listening to the heartbeat and checking my urine, along with herbal remedies and proper nutrition. Actually they didn't check my urine; they taught me how to read the strips myself, and then I would check it and report it back to them. It was an amazing experience and I have no doubt that I will choose the same women the next time around.

nonmember avatar cris

used a midwife twice. very happy! what doctor would accompany you during labor? none; they come in only during the pushing, or sometimes not until the baby's crowning. by then, you don't need much help.

qrex912 qrex912

I am currently 36 weeks pregnant with my first, and I switched from an OB to a midwife in my late first trimester. I don't regret anything, other than that I didn't do it sooner! My midwife has been indispensible, providing me what I feel to be the best in prenatal care, as well as caring for the emotional needs of me and my fiance the whole way. I could not have had this wonderful pregnancy without her!

Ashly... Ashlynnsmommy07

I had these same experiences with my OBGYN. I LOVE her, she's great!

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