What’s a Midwife?

The first response I usually get from people who are unfamiliar with midwives is “so, you deliver babies at peoples’ houses?  While some midwives continue to have a home birth practice this actually accounts for less than 5% of all midwife deliveries nationwide.  I don’t wear long flowing skirts, Birkenstock sandals, or even listen to the Grateful Dead.

Women have helped other women give birth since the beginning of time.  Midwives still deliver 75 percent of the world population today.  This includes countries that lead the globe in the lowest infant mortality like Denmark and Norway.

The art of midwifery has been passed down from generation to generation.  Like carpentry, it’s a skill that is developed over years of experience.  There are still midwives out there who have learned by apprenticeship.  They’re called lay midwives.  This type of practice is no longer recognized in the state of Nebraska but in many states lay midwives continue to attend births, mainly in the home.

Nurse midwives are formally educated in both midwifery and nursing.  All nurse midwives need to pass a formal exam to become certified and must be licensed by their respective states.  We’re considered mid-level providers like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.  In the state of Nebraska Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) must have a practice agreement with a physician in case a complication would arise.  Today most CNMs deliver babies in a hospital.

There are a few types of other midwives with differing initials but what we all have in common is the belief that childbirth is a normal event in a woman’s life.  We view pregnancy as a healthy state.  That our bodies were designed efficiently to give birth and that there is little need for intervention.  We actively involve women in their health care and focus on health education.  We have a great respect for the birth process and know that sometimes things don’t go as planned and keep a watchful eye for possible complications.

Our outcome statistics are the same as any obstetrical provider.  There is no statistical difference in terms of risk in the care we give.  Our cesarean rates are lower and our breastfeeding and maternal satisfaction rates are higher.

The second question I typically get is “does that mean I have to go without drugs in labor”?  The answer is no.  Medical intervention is available as it is to all women.  But, if you believe that you can do it without, so do we, and we will be there with you to help you through the labor process.  This is your birth and every woman has their own unique experience.  Nurse midwives are there to support you and your idea of an ideal birth.

Next up:  How is a midwife experience different?