Why Choose A Midwife

 ” to ensure our birthing experience is kept sacred and ceremonial within our family circle.”                                                                                                                               Victoria Sky, mother and artist

     Midiwves are generally women. For many women it seems natural to have a woman attendant during this uniquely feminine rite of passage. Women live cyclical, rhythmic lives. Our brains have more connections between the left and right sides that enable us to experience many different levels at one time. Our talk tends to be circular and multifaceted.

     Men’s minds are more linear and narrowly focused. They tend to be goal oriented rather than relational and process oriented as are women. It is easy to see the effect this has had on birth as we have changed attendants. Women were the sole caregivers at birth through the ages until the 1600′s. Louis XIV is credited with starting the process of women lying down for birth because he wanted to watch. Then in the 1700′s, the Chamberlain brothers came along with forceps. This was the beginning of mens takeover of birth until today in this country the huge majority of births are attended by men or women trained in the male medical model.

 ” it was more natural and safer for me and baby.”

                                                 Billye Matthews, midwife and mother of three

     The medical model includes looking at pregnancy and birth as a disease and crisis-prone time rather than a normal part of a woman’s life cycle as midwives view it. Part of this medical model involves testing, ultrasounds and many routine interventions “just in case”. Midwives tend to individualize their care and involve families in the decision-making process. Midwives encourage family participation and welcome fathers and other children to come to prenatal visits and be as involved as they choose in the birth. Most hospitals ciontinue to limit labor support people including family,to two only so plan to discuss this with your care provider.

” I wanted to be empowered and have choices and options in childbirth.”

                                                                            Laura Piotrowski, VBAC homebirth mom

     Some traditions of midwifery such as continuity of care and as much time as you need at prenatal visits are being eroded or ignored in the modern climate of nurse-midwifery. They are pressured by business managers to not spend more than fifteen minutes per visit which is very inadequate especially for first-time mothers. Most CNM’s practice in groups and you don’t know who will attend your birth until you are in labor and find out which midwife is on call.

     Midwives do offer continuous presence and support in active labor. The majority of doctors do not come until the mother is entering the pushing phase of labor. Before that, the mother’s caregivers are nurses she’s never met before who are normally understaffed and unable to offer labor support and they change every eight to twelve hours. Midwives encourage women to learn about their bodies, pregnancy and birth and welcome their questions. With education, families can see their options and make their own best choices for care during pregnancy and birth and for their new baby. You should play the central role in decisions regarding your care and deserve thorough information and encouragement to do so.

” Financial reasons initially but soon our hearts changed. I was in charge! It  changed me for the rest of my life.”

 Stephanie Fritz, mother and midwife

     Cost can be a factor and midwive’s fees are generally about half or less than the doctor/hospital fees. Most insurance companies do pay midwive’s fees. Safety is often a concern, especially when homebirth is considered. Research shows that midwives overall have excellent statistics. Their perinatal mortality rate is lower than the national rates as well as having significantly lower episiotomy rates, infection rates and low birth weight babies. Their cesarean rates are also much lower even in areas where midwives are working with high-risk populations in hospitals.

     In some ways prenatal care by a midwife is very similiar to doctor care. Monthly prenatal visits until seven months and the same labwork is done. Midwives are required to go through a training program and be licensed as are doctors. Midwives know how to watch for and identify potential or actual complications and they can provide emergency treatment until additional assistance is available. They always have a back-up plan for medical care if it is needed.

     Birth is a multi-layered, many faceted experience that engages every part of you. It is more than a physical experience and certainly much more than a medical event. It is the birth of a family. An intimate, sacred time. Midwives are more likely to see birth this way and honor people’s individuality and personal desires. They trust the birth process. The medical model does intrude and nurse-midwives, particularly in hospital settings, are often constrained in their ability to let women labor and birth without interventions. Midwives do usually encourage laboring women to be mobile and change positions frequently. Women can birth in whatever position is most comfortable for them. IV”s are not routine and fluids and light food are promoted. Episiotomies are not routine as they still are in many doctor’s practices. In general, women are offered choices rather than being told how it will be.

 ”I could not stand the thought of being separated from my baby after birth.”

                                            Diane Gregg, mother, midwife and writer

     The US ranks 26th in infant mortality. This means more babies die here at birth or in the first month of life than in twenty-five other countries. This is shocking! We are the richest country in the world and we spend more per capita on healthcare than any other nation. Most of the countries with better statistics have one thing in common- midwives attend the majority of births. In Europe as a whole, 75% of births have midwives as the care provider.

     In the US as late as 1910, 50% of births were attended by midwives. Currently only about 8% of pregnant women are cared for by midwives and the majority of these are CNM’s working in hospitals. The origin of the words midwife and obstetrician tell part of the story. Midwife means “with woman” where obstetrician means “to stand before.’ Doctors tend to distance themselves and manage the labor and birth process. Midwives tend to feel like sisters supporting and experiencing the birth with the laboring woman.

” Midwives are experts in normal childbirth and in giving care  which prevents the development of the abnormal.”

                                                      Sheila Kitzinger, The Midwife Challenge

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