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Ask an OBGYN: What is a Midwife?
If you recently discovered that you are expecting, you will need to make several decisions in the coming months, including whether to choose an OBGYN or midwife for prenatal care and child delivery. Most women are already aware of the care provided by the OBGYN. However, what is a midwife and what do they do?
Midwife – what they do
Many women consider midwives as an auxiliary caregiver during pregnancy and childbirth, much like doulas or lactation consultants. However, a midwife is a professional who has undergone education specifically for helping women at every stage of pregnancy, right from prenatal care to delivery. Also, their job is not limited to pregnancy. A midwife can cater to a woman’s health demands, including yearly examinations, prescriptions and contraceptive counseling.
Essentially, the midwife assists a woman with a seamless birth experience and gives support during labor and childbirth to achieve this objective. Midwives practically take on the role of educating and supporting expectant mothers, while their patients get to decide what happens to them and their babies. Unlike OBGYNs, midwives tend to add a personal connection during pregnancy, focusing on the emotional, physical and social needs of the patients.
Many types of midwives exist, all with varying levels of education. They include:
- Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Certified Midwife (CM)
- Professional Midwife (CPM)
- Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM)
- Lay Midwife
Women can ultimately decide with whom and where to deliver their baby. It could be a type of midwife, an OBGYN or a combination.
Benefits of midwifery
The advantages of using a midwife are many, assuming the woman is in good health and experiences no complication during childbirth. For low-risk cases, midwifery care produces fewer c-sections, fewer interventions, successful breastfeeding and generally, less trauma.
According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, when women opt for nurse-midwife-assisted labor and birth, they have a higher notion of control. Midwives typically use lesser technological or medical interventions than OBGYN, but they are also skilled enough to detect potential complications and request the assistance of an OB when necessary.
Where do midwives practice?
Midwives are available regardless of where a woman chooses to deliver. A midwife can handle home child delivery. Many people choose home childbirth because they can deliver in a familiar environment, surrounded by the people they want, without medical intervention. However, serious risks could occur – complications or emergencies cannot be handled immediately and pain relief is accessible. Many midwives in the United States practice in a hospital, which allows women to get assistance from the midwives and quick access to medical facilities in case of emergency.
Not all women can benefit from midwifery care, including women with a high-risk pregnancy, including those above age 35, those who are obese or women who have diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia, seizure disorders or any preexisting medical condition.
Midwives follow the rules governing the licensing state. Most states do not allow midwives to handle twins, breeches or in some cases, VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean). In those cases, women need to use an OBGYN. This does not mean that you cannot have a midwife around with the doctor for support during delivery.
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