Angie's LIST Guide to
Midwives

Midwives are professionals who offer support to women throughout their pregnancy and handle the labor and delivery of babies. Many couples use the services of a midwife as a great alternative to hospital births.
 

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pregnant woman in labor being checked by a midwife
Midwives provide an alternative to mothers who do not wish to birth their babies in hospitals with traditional medical attention. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Andreina C.)
 
 

What is a midwife?

Many women choose to deliver their babies in an alternative setting than a hospital. With the help of a professional midwife, a woman can have her baby safely at home or in a birthing center or she can complement a hospital birth with a delivery coach. Some women fear going through labor alone, and the thought of having a caring and knowledgeable person addressing any immediate needs is inviting to pregnant mothers. Some women dislike the possibility of induced labor, fetal monitoring, use of pain medication and other interventions.

Sometimes women prefer the more natural sense of birthing that midwives can provide. Having a midwife provides a unique relationship with a professional birthing partner. According to the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, births attended by midwives reached an all-time high of 8.1 percent in 2009. The growth of midwifery use remains steady in the United States.

    There are several types of midwives. A licensed midwife (LM) has completed a state-approved and accredited midwifery program. A nurse who has pursued the midwife field is known as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). Some will even continue their education and obtain a master's in midwifery. A midwife can legally practice delivery and care for pregnant women who are considered low risk. To be considered a low-risk patient, the expectant mother must not have diabetes or high blood pressure, and can't smoke or have taken illegal drugs. She must not have a chronic disease or illness as well.

    What if a problem arises?

    A midwife takes care of the patient and watches her carefully during the duration of her pregnancy. The midwife must check for symptoms that could indicate a developing problem, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Remember, the bulk of a midwife's education is learning how to avoid complications and how to accurately and quickly resolve any that may occur. A licensed midwife completes at least a three-year program at an accredited institution and attends and carries out a certain number of deliveries. Certain states require that midwives carry malpractice insurance and have access to a backup physician.

    As mentioned, midwives take only patients that are not high-risk. Patients are assessed carefully during the pregnancy. Midwives train expectant mothers for natural childbirth, but they cannot guarantee a birth without complications requiring a Cesarean section. An emergency care plan should be addressed in advance, in case of complications. Most birthing centers, as well as hospital midwives, have the proper emergency equipment and training. If an emergency arises, midwives call for assistance and transport to a hospital. If you have concerns, look into hospitals that use midwives and set up prenatal care and delivery under their care at this facility. When researching a midwife using Angie's List, it's best to find a highly-rated one near a hospital.

    What makes a good midwife?

    Midwives offer a lot of individualized attention from the beginning of pregnancy to the time of delivery. A good midwife spends a great deal of time with her patient during prenatal visits. This ensures that the patient and baby's health are satisfactory but also provides enough time to begin a bonding friendship. First-time mothers will truly appreciate the coaching a midwife offers and which helps alleviate anxiety and fear from pregnancy and delivery. Midwives offer the confidence that the human body can do usually do what comes naturally and teach expectant mothers how to deal with labor pains and control their bodies.

    Because midwives can't administer pain medications unless they're in a hospital setting, many offer other methods of quelling pain during labor. Changing positions, using a water bath or massage and redirecting negative thoughts into positive and loving ones help the mother endure her labor. Many midwives conduct prenatal classes and then provide postpartum care of the infant and mother for up to six weeks after the birth. For parents, having a midwife is cost-effective, making the delivery affordable, especially for those without medical insurance. 

    The term midwife comes from Old English and means "with woman." Therefore, a male in this capacity is still called a midwife because he assists the woman.

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    Ashlee Kehaulani Hickey

    Subject: Midwives

    I'm looking for a super natural midwife to help answer any and all of my questions i may have through my pregnancy. Thank you for the help!!

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