This post is written by my dear friend, prior labor and delivery nurse, and now my midwife, Alyson (as mentioned in my own birth stories here and here). In honor of National Midwifery Week, she has shared great information on the role of the midwife, midwifery care, and how to find a midwife. To hear more from Alyson, follow her on twitter at @AlysonCNM.
One of the most important choices related to health care that a woman can make for herself is her provider. Finding someone with a similar philosophy and priorities, as well as a excellent knowledge base can be hard to do. There are so many choices out there and with all other options and decisions coming out of this decision, it is important to KNOW YOUR OPTIONS.
What is a Midwife?
The word Midwife means “With woman” and refers to the attendants of labor and birth throughout history, until the growth of the Obstetric specialty. In the state of Illinois, there is one type of Midwife who can practice legally and this is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). CNMs have dual training in nursing and midwifery, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in advanced practice nursing and a certification as a nurse midwife. CNMs are licensed, independent health care providers with prescriptive authority in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and are defined as primary care providers under federal law. This means that CNMs can provide comprehensive gynecological, obstetric and primary care to low risk women, including prescribing medications, across the US.
Where do CNM’s Practice?
The nation’s more than 12,000 CNMs and CMs (Certified Midwives) provide maternity and primary care services to women of all ages in hospitals, birth centers, and homes, with the overwhelming majority practicing in hospitals and private practices and the remainder in homes and free standing birth centers.
Who do CNM’s care for?
CNMs care for low-risk women. Some women with more complicated conditions may be cared for by CNMs alone or co-managed with physicians. CNMs also attend about 11% of all vaginal births in the US, and many more around the world.
Why choose a CNM?
CNMs usually have more time per appointment to spend on physical, emotional and psychological needs than physicians do. They see birth as a normal process in the cycle of life, not as a medical condition to be treated. Women are provided with information and helped toward decisions for their care, both in the clinic setting and during labor, delivery and post partum. Midwives also have an appreciation of complementary and alternative medicines, such as acupuncture, herbs, chiropractics, yoga and meditation.
The ACNM overview Midwifery: Evidence-Based Practice, a Summary of Research on Midwifery Practice in the United States shows that compared to care provided exclusively by physicians, midwife-led care is associated with lower rates of labor induction, higher chances of vaginal birth, reduced risk of preterm birth, and higher chances of a successful start to breastfeeding. A 2011 Press-Ganey national survey also showed that women receiving care from midwives have care satisfaction levels in the 91-95 percentiles.
In addition to improved health outcomes, midwives’ high-touch, low-tech approach to care is associated with lower costs for clients and insurers. Midwives’ judicious, evidence-based use of technology results in a reduced likelihood of unnecessary interventions, including cesareans.
How can you find a CNM?
The best national resource is the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM)
Local resources include childbirth-related stores, yoga studios and blogs.