Certified Nurse Midwives: Women Caring for Women

Once a woman discovers she is pregnant, there are many thoughts, emotions and decisions that need to be addressed. Although the newly expectant mom is undoubtedly excited and overwhelmed, she may feel anxious because of the many important decisions that she will face over the next few months.

A woman must choose an appropriate obstetric healthcare provider to care for her and the unborn child throughout the pregnancy, labor and delivery. While this is a very personal choice, it is certainly wise and beneficial of the expectant mother to research the options available for her care.

Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN) physicians specialize in women’s healthcare. They diagnose and treat disorders of the female reproductive system as well as monitor the care of the pregnant woman and perform the baby’s delivery.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are licensed healthcare practitioners educated in nursing and midwifery. Midwives provide women with a personalized, compassionate and total approach to all aspects of health, including prenatal, labor, delivery, postpartum and gynecologic care. Their medical knowledge and specialized training allow them to have a unique understanding of a woman’s physical, emotional and personal needs during all phases of pregnancy.

“The true meaning of midwifery is women caring for women,” says Joy Sedlock, CNM. Therefore, the focus of a midwife is to meet the individual needs of each patient in order to provide the most fulfilling birthing experience. “The most important fact about a midwife is that she will provide you with a personalized approach for your delivery. Your midwife wants nothing more than for you to have a wonderful experience delivering your baby and she will provide the comprehensive care and support needed to make that happen,” says Sedlock. Additionally, a midwife will remain with you throughout your labor and delivery, therefore, knowing exactly what the mother needs, when she needs it and successfully getting the mother-to-be to the point of pushing and delivery.

Midwives Offer Alternative Choices for Childbirth

Some women opt to use alternative methods to deliver her baby, such as water birth. A midwife will work with the mother to tailor a birth plan that best meets her and her baby’s needs.

“The benefits of water birth are plentiful,” says Sedlock. “They include relaxation, freedom of movement, buoyancy, decreased energy expenditure, decreased perception of pain, dilation of blood vessels and increased release of endorphins.” Once submerged in the tub, the mother’s abdominal muscles become relaxed, which allows more efficient contractions and increased blood circulation; therefore, more oxygen is delivered to the mother and fetus. In addition, the buoyancy offers more freedom of movement for the mother allowing her to find the most comfortable positions. Without the distraction of pain and anxiety, she is able to stay focused on the process and decrease the duration of her labor.

“Our focus is on what’s important to the woman and her family. This may or may not include medication, a labor plan or a water birth,” Sedlock explains. “It’s all about helping to create the birth experience that’s best for them.”

And when it comes to water births, specific criteria must be met, including:

  • The baby must be at least 37 weeks
  • It must be a single birth
  • Vital signs must be good with no complications
  • The baby’s head must be in a downward position

In addition to providing benefits for the mom, the baby also benefits from the water environment. The warm water eases the shock of the baby’s transition from womb to world by providing a warm and weightless environment while muting the sights and sounds of the delivery room. Still connected to its mother by the cord, the baby also benefits from the mother’s experience – increased blood circulation, decreased reactions to pain and adrenaline.

A truly invigorating experience, water births provide therapeutic effects to both mother and baby.

Myths About Midwives: They Do More Than Just Deliver Babies!

For women with low-risk uncomplicated pregnancies, having their babies delivered by a midwife is a viable alternative to using an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). In Europe, midwives deliver more than 70 percent of normal, vaginal births. Although American midwives assist with significantly fewer births, they are being utilized in increasingly greater numbers.

Many people do not understand the role of a certified nurse midwife; therefore, we’d like to set the record straight about some common misconceptions.

Midwives have come a long way from the days of providing “at-home” deliveries. In fact, 96 percent of the babies they deliver today are born in hospitals. Modern midwives are highly skilled professionals who offer women a unique experience that tends to be highly personal. CNMs:

  • Have undergone rigorous training and are licensed advanced practice nurses educated in both nursing and midwifery.
  • Are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and meet strict national standards for healthcare.
  • Provide personalized care for women of childbearing age through menopause – from family planning, preconception counseling and prenatal care to annual physicals, pelvic exams and pap smears.
  • Work closely with OB/GYN physicians and use a unique blend of traditional medicine, alternative techniques and educational methods, so their patients have all options available to them, including the use of an epidural for pain relief.
  • Hold a master’s degree in nursing, specializing in nurse midwifery.

In order to provide the best possible birth experience, midwives believe in partnering with childbearing women and respecting birth as a normal life event, rather than a medical process. Depending on what is most important to the woman and her family, the delivery may or may not include medication and alternative birthing options, such as water births.

Editorial provided by Cleveland Clinic.

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