Midwife deliveries now account for 12.1 percent of all vaginal deliveries in the United States (about one in every eight deliveries).
While more and more women are taking advantage of the more personal and relaxed atmosphere of a midwife-attended birth, there are still many questions and myths around. So, let’s learn the truth about midwives.
Midwife Truth #1: Having a midwife-attended birth is a safe birthing option
“A midwife is a trained professional with special expertise in supporting women to maintain a healthy pregnancy, birth, offering expert individualized care, education, counseling and support to a woman and her newborn throughout the childbearing cycle” (3) you need. In Canada, midwives are required to complete a four-year university program where they concentrate on pregnancy, labor, birth and care of newborns.
In the United States, lay midwives may not have any medical training, but gain their knowledge and experience through apprenticeships. Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse-Midwives do undergo specific training, must re-certify at regular intervals, and are usually licensed by state. It is up to you to find out as much as you can about your midwife's experience and education before engaging her services.
A midwife can recognize very quickly if a particular birthing situation requires a doctor, and will immediately transfer the mother to a hospital. If a mother is transferred to a doctor’s care, midwives always attend the birth, and are responsible for the health of the baby once he’s born.
Midwife Truth #2: Having a midwife does not always mean having a home birth
In Canada, 75 percent of midwife-assisted births occur in hospitals, and similar numbers have been reported in the United States. Midwives work with the understanding that the mother always has the right to choose between a hospital or home birth.
Midwife Truth #3: Having a midwife does not mean no epidural
While midwives educate and help pregnant mothers manage pain with non-medicinal practices, some women do want the option of having an epidural. If the mother wishes an epidural, the midwife will transfer care to the hospital, but will still be an active part of the rest of the delivery.
Midwife Truth #4: Doulas and midwives are not the same
A doula offers the same emotional and physical support during labor as a midwife, but she does not deliver babies. The midwife has more medical training, and the doula’s training is non-medical. However, a midwife can also be a doula. Many doulas, like midwives, also provide postpartum care and breastfeeding support.
Midwife Truth #5: Midwives don't only deliver babies
Nurse-midwives in the United States provide prenatal care and perform deliveries, but they also provide “gynecological care from adolescence to menopause. Teaching women how to prevent disease and maintain good health throughout their lives ... Nurse-midwives work in collaboration with physicians” (2) and care for women through all stages of life.