The benefits of midwifery

True or false: Midwives deliver babies at home without advanced medical care available.

The answer? A resounding false! While more than 90 percent of births in the U.S. are delivered by physicians, a growing minority of women rely on midwives to provide their prenatal care and delivery. These women use state-of-the-art technology and best practices in medicine combined with a patient-centric philosophy to give expecting mothers what they believe is the highest-quality healthcare with the best overall outcomes.

I had the opportunity to interview Diana Lee, a certified nurse midwife and a women’s health nurse practitioner at Revere Health to find out more.

What is a midwife, exactly?

A midwife is a healthcare professional who provides healthcare services for women including medical histories and gynecological examinations, women’s health care, contraceptive counseling, prescriptions, and labor and delivery care. However, a midwife’s specialty is allowing women to be a part of their healthcare choices and providing expert care during labor, delivery, and after birth.

Midwives believe giving birth is a natural physiological process and in facilitating a natural childbirth as much as possible. As Lee states, “The goals are to have a healthy mom and baby and allow mom to be a central part in the decision making process.” What differentiates midwives from other healthcare providers is being present through the labor and birth process, giving labor support, taking care of the mom’s needs and wishes and facilitating changes if they need to be made. Midwives will advise and give recommendations allowing the women to in charge of her health care needs.

What are the benefits of using a midwife rather than a physician during labor?

There is growing evidence indicating the benefits of midwifery. A review published by The Cochrane Library found that consistent midwife care throughout pregnancy is linked with better outcomes for both mom and baby. On the whole, women who saw midwives throughout their pregnancy were less likely to have an epidural painkiller, an episiotomy (an incision made from the vagina to anus during delivery), or a delivery using instruments, such as a vacuum or forceps. Women who received continuous care from midwives also were less likely to have a baby before 37 weeks of gestation or lose their babies before 24 weeks.

In his article, Safety of Alternative Approaches to Childbirth, Peter Schlenzka suggests the results of choosing to use a midwife lead to the following benefits: lower maternity care costs, reduced mortality and morbidity related to cesarean and other interventions, lower intervention rates and fewer recovery complications. Lee concurs, stating, “In addition to these benefits, patients receive better education about their healthcare. Midwives spend much more time educating and answering questions before, during, and following labor and delivery. Most women’s bodies are made to have babies. So if we educate patients and are patient in the process, most moms are usually able to deliver without any intervention.”

If I use a midwife, will I give up the chance to have an epidural?

Despite common belief, midwives have access to all current advances in medicine. Women who use midwives may give birth in the hospital, use epidurals and even have physicians supervise the births. The difference is that midwives generally spend more time with their patients and are present for the labor. The only thing midwives don’t do is surgery.

Increasingly, healthcare providers, including obstetricians, are recognizing that midwives may help cut healthcare costs and decrease infant death rates by improving access to prenatal care. Advocates voice that giving midwives control over normal pregnancies and births allows obstetricians to focus their energies on what they do best — manage problematic pregnancies and births.

Midwifery offers the chance for families to have the ultimate control of their pregnancy and delivery. By assisting mothers in the normal, natural process of labor and delivery, they help women realize the joy of bringing a life into the world.

This article was originally published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

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