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What is a Midwife?

Posted on February 28th, 2013 by | 5 views

Long ago, in times that were almost lost to American culture, midwives attended the majority of births and cared for the mother and baby during the process. Also known as baby catchers, midwives are slowly making their way back into popularity in the United States as more women are choosing to birth with a midwife instead of an obstetric doctor. In many European countries, midwives are the primary care providers in around 70% of all pregnancies and births. Doctors are only called upon when a woman is considered high-risk due to such complications as high blood pressure, diabetes, or the need for emergency cesarean section.

Midwives practice with the belief that pregnancy and birth is a normal and natural process. A woman can hire a midwife instead of an obstetrician if she chooses, and will see the midwife for her prenatal visits as well as have the midwife for support during birth. Midwives are very skilled, knowledgeable, and have had many hours of training in prenatal care and birth. They are advocates of utilizing a healthy diet, exercise, and holistic care for prevention and care of complications that might arise in pregnancy andbirth, and often include therapies such as homeopathy, acupressure, and herbs in their treatment methods. Midwives are trained to handle many different situations in pregnancy and birth, and can help women avoid many of the unnecessary interventions that are often used in conventional hospitals today. Some midwives practice in a hospital setting, others at birth centers, and some will even come to your home for prenatal care and birth. If a woman chooses, she may even see a midwife for her well-woman care before and after pregnancy, for fertility issues, and for help with menopausal symptoms.

Types of Midwives

There are two broad types of professional midwives. Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are Registered Nurses who have completed additional training in pregnancy and birth. They mainly work in hospital settings or at birth centers, although a small percent attend home births as well. Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are independent practitioners, or direct-entry midwives, who work primarily in home settings and can also work in free-standing birth centers. Most CPMs must complete a midwifery program, clinical training, and pass rigorous competency testing in order to receive their certification. Some states also provide licenses for midwives (LM).

Choosing Your Birth Location

There are several safe options available, in terms of location, for a pregnant woman to give birth. For information regarding these options, including the differences between Hospitals and Birthing Centers, click here.

Finding Your Midwife

Before choosing a midwife, it is best to first consider the type of birth best for you. Where you want to have your baby can influence the type of midwife you can have at your birth, since some midwives only work in hospitals, and others are only permitted to attend birth at home. Also, the state you live in can play a role in what midwives in your area are legally allowed to do, so do your research, ask around, and most importantly, speak to midwives in your area. Interview several so that you can find the best fit for you and your birth. To find a midwife near you, visit our Directory of Midwives.

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