This week is National Midwifery week, and so OF COURSE we are celebrating! Lamaze believes that midwives play a critical role in the health and well being of women during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and beyond. If you are pregnant and have never considered a midwife for your care, or have unclear thoughts on what you think a midwife is, now is the time to learn more.
Unfortunately, there are many myths and half-truths that circulate, still today, about midwives. I remember just a few years ago overhearing a conversation at my hair salon in which one woman stated that she would never trust her care in pregnancy to a midwife -- that doctors are the obvious, safe, and qualified choice. While each person is entitled to choose their preferred care provider in pregnancy, believing in false information prevents a person from accessing the full range of healthy choices.
Maybe you're in that boat -- the one that believes midwives are "less than" doctors and therefore not safe, the one that believes midwives are only for homebirths... and so on. This post is for you and for others out there who might be considering a midwife for their care but are unsure. Today we will clear up the top five myths you may have heard about midwives by telling you the truth instead!
Top 5 Myths About Midwives
Midwives only attend births at home.
Truth: About 95% of midwives in the United States attend births in hospitals! Midwives serve families in lots of different locations and settings, including hospitals, birth centers, clinics, medical offices, and at home. In hospitals in the United States, you will mostly find Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) and in some locations, Certified Midwives (CM).
Midwives don't have much formal education.
Truth: To be a CNM, you must first be an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) before becoming educated and passing a master's level or higher program in midwifery. They must complete ongoing continuing education to maintain their designation. A CM must complete a graduate level midwifery education program and then pass the national certification exam. They must maintain continuing education and recertify every five years.
Midwives only support "natural" births - they won't give you any pain medication.
Truth: Midwives support all kinds of births without any agenda for a "natural" or pain med free birth. The truth is, midwives are experts in pain relief during labor and birth, and that includes all kinds of pain relief, including relaxation techniques, massage, movement, IV narcotics, and epidural.
Midwives only handle pregnancy and birth.
Truth: It's true that midwives are specialists when it comes to pregnancy and birth, but they are trained and care for people from teenage years through menopause and offer services like well visits, screenings, prescribing medication, and treating disease.
I can't have a midwife if I have a high risk pregnancy.
Truth: If you have a chronic health condition or high risk pregnancy, a midwife can still play an important role in your pregnancy and birth. Depending on your condition and health needs, a midwife may be able to provide your routine, direct care services (like regular prenatal visits) in combination with visits to a specialist; or your midwife may have more of an indirect support role in which she works with your other care providers to meet your health needs and provides information and resources to meet your childbirth goals.
So how are midwives different and why does it matter to you? Midwives are trained to understand and support the normal/natural course of labor and birth while keeping the pregnant person as the center of their care. According the American College of Nurse-Midwives, midwifery care is best defined by the following:
We believe every person has a right to:
- Equitable, ethical, accessible quality health care that promotes healing and health
- Health care that respects human dignity, individuality and diversity among groups
- Complete and accurate information to make informed health care decisions
- Self-determination and active participation in health care decisions
- Involvement of a woman's designated family members, to the extent desired, in all health care experiences
We believe the best model of health care for a woman and her family:
- Promotes a continuous and compassionate partnership
- Acknowledges a person's life experiences and knowledge
- Includes individualized methods of care and healing guided by the best evidence available
- Involves therapeutic use of human presence and skillful communication
We honor the normalcy of women's lifecycle events. We believe in:
- Watchful waiting and non-intervention in normal processes
- Appropriate use of interventions and technology for current or potential health problems
- Consultation, collaboration and referral with other members of the health care team as needed to provide optimal health care