3 Common Misperceptions About Midwives
posted by Leanne Bedell, CNM | October 5, 2015
Happy Midwifery Week! This year, October 5 – 12 is the week we celebrate and recognize midwives for the work they do. In honor of National Midwifery Week, we’d like to give some information on what midwifery is and why you should consider a midwife as a care provider for your birth.
There is some confusion among the population in general about just who midwives are and what we do. In Utah, people with different educational backgrounds and varying experience can legally use the term “midwife.” For a good explanation of the various types of midwives, visit the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ website. The midwives at Revere Health OB/GYN are certified nurse midwives, or CNMs. This means we had undergraduate education in nursing and were first certified as registered nurses. We then completed graduate degrees in midwifery and passed a national certification examination. We are licensed by the state of Utah to practice as nurse-midwives, in much the same way that nurse practitioners and other advanced-practice nurses are licensed. Nurse midwives practice legally and are licensed in all 50 states. We have prescriptive authority, which means we can prescribe medications that you may need.
At Revere Health, OB/GYN, we are part of a midwife/physician team. We love the doctors in our practice, and they are an absolutely necessary part of our caregiving team and are always available if complications arise. However, midwives have a different background and approach to care. OB/GYNs focus more on treating abnormalities, while midwives focus on maintaining the normal. An OBGYN completes an undergraduate degree, medical school and specialty residency training. During residency, they learn to do surgery, manage high-risk pregnancies and treat complex gynecologic problems. In general, they do not stay with a woman during labor if she does not have complications, but delegate labor support to nursing staff. Midwives stay with women during the labor to offer physical and emotional support, and then attend the delivery. In fact, the word “midwife” means “with woman”.
One misconception I’ve heard often during my career is that midwives only attend home births. The fact is that nearly 95 percent of all births attended by certified nurse midwives are in hospitals.
Another misconception is that women who choose midwives as their care providers must have unmedicated births. We do support women’s choice to have unmedicated births, and we will do everything in our power to help them have that experience. However, women who choose to have anesthesia for labor can still have a midwife as their care provider. We support many different types of labor experiences based on patients’ preferences and health history.
Finally, many people do not know midwives do more than take care of women during pregnancy and birth. We also do well-woman gynecologic visits, treat some gynecologic problems and offer some primary care services. For example, on a given day, I may see a woman with a newly discovered breast lump and schedule her for a mammogram, treat another woman for a yeast infection, remove another woman’s IUD and diagnose and treat another woman’s strep throat. All this is in addition to doing prenatal visits for some of our pregnant patients.
I hope this has given you a better idea of what we midwives do. I think midwifery is the best job in the world and it is a privilege to take care of you.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.