It seems as though when someone says “midwife,” everyone has a different idea of what that means. Some imagine an elderly lady shoving herbs under the mattress, while others picture a scrappy nun traveling door-to-door on a bicycle. Suffice to say, modern midwives are very different. A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse (RN) with a master’s degree or higher, whose training includes a specialty in women’s care and obstetrics. She (or he!) is qualified to perform a wide variety of procedures at every stage of a woman’s life — not only during pregnancy, and not only at home.
Below, you’ll find the answers to a few basic questions about midwives. To learn more about midwifery at HCA Midwest Health, visit our midwife services webpage. You can even see videos featuring interviews with several of our nurse-midwives, personal stories from moms, and more.
What does a midwife do?
A midwife is a women’s health specialist. During pregnancy, a midwife provides regular health checkups, educates patients on their options, gets to know the patient and helps to develop a birth plan based on the mother’s wishes and health. During labor, they provide hands-on physical and emotional support — not only for mom, but also for her family and friends who may be attending the birth. Afterward, the midwife helps new moms to achieve successful breastfeeding and integrate baby into its new home and family.
But it doesn’t end there. A nurse-midwife can also provide personalized care for all other stages of a woman’s life, which may include:
- Annual pelvic and breast exams
- Ongoing gynecologic care
- Family planning and contraceptive counseling, including implant and IUD insertions
- Menopausal well-being, including hormone replacement therapy
Do I have to have a homebirth to have a midwife?
Nope! In fact, the majority of modern midwives now work in hospitals and birthing centers. HCA Midwest Health offers the largest network of nurse-midwives in the region. These rigorously trained healthcare professionals will work with you at our facilities throughout your pregnancy and delivery to provide the best experience possible.
Why might I consider a midwife?
A midwife has a background in nursing, which means a more holistic approach. This includes:
- Supporting a woman’s emotional as well as physical needs — such as helping her find the right relaxation techniques to reduce the need for pain medications.
- Longer appointments and more personal care.
- Educating patients so that they can make informed decisions for themselves.
- Health care for women of every age — from puberty to menopause.
Midwives are a great option for women who are in relatively good health and want a more personal level of care. They are especially popular among moms who are interested in and able to have a natural, low-intervention birth.
Why might I need a doctor instead of a midwife?
At HCA Midwest Health, our midwives attend low-risk pregnancies only. A low-risk pregnancy is one where mom is healthy and there are few or no complications expected. If you have a high-risk pregnancy — such as if you are expecting multiple babies, develop gestational diabetes, or have other conditions that may lead to complications — you may need to deliver with the help of a doctor instead of or in addition to your midwife. You should ask your health care provider for guidance as to which option might be best for you.
What if I want to be medicated during my delivery?
Nurse-midwives are fully qualified to administer drugs or other pain relief methods — even if you didn’t originally plan on using them. It all depends on how you feel once those contractions get going. The important thing is that it’s your choice either way, and your midwife is here to support you.
What if something unexpected happens during my delivery?
Your nurse-midwife is able to handle a wide variety of issues that may come up, and collaborates closely with physicians on-site. If there are any complications that she isn’t able to handle on her own, no worries — you’ll already be in a hospital, surrounded by specialists who are ready to leap into action.
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