If you think midwifery is an ancient, outdated art that consists of a fringe group of women in Birkenstocks and tie dye then think again. Midwives are highly educated, skilled professionals and midwifery care touches all groups of women. The popularity of midwifery is growing partly due to media coverage of celebrities that have used midwives for their care and Ricki Lake’s documentary video, The Business of Being Born.
While the use of midwives has climbed over the last few years in the United States, there is still a large percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the nature of a midwife—perhaps due to the myths surrounding who midwives are and exactly what they do. Today’s theme for National Midwifery Week is “Bust a Myth”. Here are the most common myths related to midwifery and the facts that refute them:
Myth #1: Midwives only handle pregnancy and birth.
Fact: Midwives provide expert knowledge, skill and health care services to women in all stages of life, including general health check-ups, gynecological exams, screenings, birth control, etc. Midwives enjoy caring for women for a lifetime.
Myth #2: Midwives only deliver home births.
Fact: Midwives practice in many different settings, the most common being a hospital setting. Midwives also attend birth in birth centers.
Myth #3: Midwives aren’t formally educated.
Fact: There are different types of midwives in the US, each representing a variety of approaches to education and training. South Shore Hospital exclusively employs highly educated and skilled Certified Nurse-Midwives. Certified Nurse-Midwives have a degree in nursing as well as a master’s degree. Many Certified Nurse- Midwives now have a doctorate degree as well. The skills and expertise Certified Nurse-Midwives have through their advanced training allows for their expert care in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as primary and newborn care. Certified Nurse-Midwives focus on pregnancy and birth as normal physiologic events but are always on the lookout for signs of trouble.
Myth #4: Midwives don’t allow pain medicine and epidurals in birth.
Fact: Midwives partner with their patients to determine a plan that fits their needs and desires. Midwives understand that each person’s level of pain is unique and they provide expert knowledge in how to best cope with pain during labor—both medicinally and non-medicinally depending on the patient’s need and desire. Experts in normal birth, midwives use a variety of options to assist a woman to move comfortable through labor, such as hydrotherapy- tubs and showers, massage, heat, positioning, relaxation techniques, music, guided imagery and by just being with the woman, talking her through the contractions.
Myth #5: Midwives aren’t covered by insurance.
Fact: In most states, it is required that private insurance companies pay for services provided by certified nurse midwives (CNMs), and Medicaid coverage is required in all states. In states that do not require private insurance coverage, many insurance plans still cover the services provided by a CNM.
Myth #6: Midwives don’t handle chronic health conditions, high-risk pregnancies or complications.
Fact: Though midwives are considered experts in normal or low-risk pregnancies, they can still co-manage high-risk patients with an OB/GYN. The collaborative relationship between physicians and midwives and their combined expertise allow optimal care to be provided to each patient. Midwives are trained to spot problems ahead of time and collaborate with their obstetrical colleagues who are right there in the Birthing Unit. Together, midwives, OBs and nurses work as a team to provide safe care for moms and babies.
To learn more about midwifery care, attend the Meet With the Midwives gathering the second Wednesday of every month at South Shore Hospital.