You're newly pregnant? Congratulations! Now, time to choose your care provider. You're going to see the ob/gyn you've been going to for years? That's great that you have already found someone you know! But let me ask you this: have you considered a midwife for your prenatal care and birth? I know what you might be thinking. Let me set the record straight -- a midwife does not:
- Only attend home births
- Have informal education
- Only focus on pregnancy and birth
- Need a physician to prescibe medication or order tests
- Only attend births without the use of pain medication
- Work in opposition of physicians
You seem surprised! There are lots of myths circulating about what a midwife is and is not. You might be amazed at how well suited a midwife is to care for your pregnancy and attend your birth. You see, certified nurse midwives (CNM) and certified midwives (CM) attend 93% of all midwife-attended births in the United States and are required to have a master's degree and pass a national certification exam. Certified professional midwives (CPM) are also required to pass a national certification and are responsible for care of women birthing in birth centers and at home.
Here's the real kicker about midwives -- they have a different approach to caring for women in pregnancy and birth. Midwives get to know you and your individual care needs -- and "wants" -- and work with you to create a personalized, tailored-to-fit health care experience. Just because women have been giving birth forever, doesn't mean that the care should be "one-size-fits-all." Midwives are known for viewing pregnancy and birth as normal life events, not an emergency waiting to happen. They practice evidence-based care (ie, practices based on scientifically tried and true methods) and use medical interventions (like induction, cesarean, pitocin, etc.) only when mom or baby has a specific health concern. And, did you also know that:
- Midwives (CNM and CM) are covered by most insurance plans across the United States
- A midwife will encourage support people at your birth, like your partner, spouse, family member and a doula
- When a medical procedure is needed, your midwife will make sure you have all the information needed to make an informed decision
- Midwifery care is safe and many times, preferred by women who are pregnant
So here's the thing. Before you go choosing (or maybe settling) on the care provider you've always gone to, consider taking a look at how that care provider will care for you in pregnancy, during birth, and postpartum. Here's a helpful set of criteria from the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), which you can use to evaluate any care provider. The criteria advises that your care provider should:
- Be committed to helping you learn about the birth process, while providing you with information so that you can make the best decisions for you and your baby.
- Allow you enough time to make decisions without feeling pressured.
- Know how to help you cope with pain in labor without using medications, and should assure your comfort, dignity and privacy.
- Respect your cultural beliefs and preferences.
- Have the education, knowledge, skills, and confidence to help you achieve your goals.
If you're left wondering which kind of care provider will be the best fit for you, take this awesome little quiz, which also gives you a list of question to ask when you interview different providers. Even if your decision comes back to the provider you've always seen, at least you'll know you've carefully evaluated your options. Why is that important? Because your care provider has some of the biggest influence on the health and safety of you and your baby in pregnancy and birth. Who you choose matters.