Midwives as a profession have been around for thousands of years. Midwifery was once thought to be a woman’s profession only, but these days many men also pursue this profession.
Having a midwife while you’re pregnant can be beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire clinical care team. Midwives are a step up from doulas, as they are trained to use medical interventions such as fetal monitoring, epidurals, and episiotomies, among others. They are also involved heavily in the labor process. Generally, a woman’s midwife can and will stay by her side throughout labor and delivery.
There are several types of midwives. Here’s a brief description of each:
Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM): These midwives are trained through apprenticeships under the supervision of an experienced midwife, and through midwifery courses and self study.
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): These are midwives who are also RNs and have passed the certification exam required by the American College of Nurse Midwives. CNMs have at least one year of midwifery specialty training beyond their nursing education. They practice in hospitals and birth centers, and also assist with home births.
Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): These midwives are trained in midwifery and registered with the North American Registry of Midwives.
Certified Midwife (CM): These midwives are trained and certified in midwifery, plus they hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education and are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
What Can a Midwife do for You?
There are numerous things a midwife is trained to help with. Besides answering questions you may have about your pregnancy, midwives can also:
- Monitor the physical, psychological, and overall wellness of the mother throughout labor and delivery
- Provide hands-on assistance during labor
- Provide postpartum support
- Provide the mother with education, counseling, and prenatal care
Other services a midwife can provide include:
- Contraceptive counseling
- Newborn care
- Menopausal management
Before you hire a midwife, you have to keep in mind that midwives are restricted in the duties they may perform based on their level of education, certification, and licensing. Most midwives receive some form of training in nursing. If you want a midwife who can do it all, a certified nurse midwife would be your best option.
Benefits of Having a Midwife
There are numerous benefits to having a midwife on your team during labor and delivery. Midwives can stay with you, even while shifts are being changed. They remain while doctors come and go, nurses deal with other emergencies, and even when your partner needs a nap or a break. Other benefits include:
- Emotional support before, during, and after labor and delivery
- Physical support
- Can suggest different positions if you are uncomfortable
- Can act as communicator for mother, partner, and clinical care team
- Reduces anxiety in both mother and partner
- Will stay with you and new baby for up to six weeks after birth
- Can be found in hospitals, birthing centers, or used at home in a private setting
- Fewer complications
- Lower maternity costs
- Lower intervention rates
You may also have always pictured yourself giving birth in a hospital, but the best thing about midwives is that they have the knowledge and expertise to birth a baby just about anywhere. Unfortunately, there is less equipment available to them at a patient’s home or in a birthing center than there would be in a hospital.
They can also be beneficial to other members of an expectant mother’s family, including the partner. Many people don’t realize the amount of pressure that is put on a partner during labor and birth. Most partners are relieved to have a midwife there to answer questions and to help cope with pain.
To learn more, please check out our Guide to Hiring a Midwife.