What you should know about midwifery

Midwifery is the fastest growing designation in prenatal care and delivery, but it also seems to be the most controversial. For instance, European women tend to favor midwives, while American women seem wary of their expertise: midwives assist more than 70% of normal vaginal births in Europe, but a mere 7% of births in the United States. In fact, many women in North America share a foggy view of the skills and responsibilities of a nurse midwife, opting instead for the clinical version of childbirth simply because it is the most familiar. Before you discount a midwife-assisted birth, learn a bit about how they're trained, what they do and how to find one.


About Midwifery

The main divide in opinion arises from the belief that midwives are not nearly as well-trained as medical doctors, but this is misleading. A pregnancy physician like an OBGYN or neonatologist may have an impressive medical background with a specialty on top of it, but it's also important to realize that the term "midwife" has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Although a nurse midwife does not go through the same medical school training as a physician, they certainly gain an impressive amount of education before they earn their designation. Midwifery may have modest roots, as the first midwives were basically women without any formal childbirth training, but it has since become a respected professional specialization that rivals the care of a physician. Since the inception of the first certified American nurse-midwifery school in 1932, comprehensive medical training has been incorporated into the traditional approach of midwifery in North America.

Choosing a Certified Nurse Midwife

In the United States, a midwife's subtitle will indicate her level of education and training. A certified nurse midwife, or CNM, must have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing, but many have a master's or doctoral degree. Additionally, they have specific midwife training from a midwifery school and are licensed by the state and certified by the North American Registry of Midwives. This training allows them to conduct many of the procedures that physicians conduct, from ultrasound and prenatal tests to delivery and cord blood banking. But although midwives are very capable of handling most low risk pregnancies, you will need a physician if you're experiencing any complications or have a previous medical condition that could complicate things.

While certified nurse midwives should inspire confidence in their training and medical abilities, there are some who don't carry the credentials that you might expect. Pay attention to details when comparing midwives, as there are lay midwife programs that can earn the person a form of certification without requiring them to complete a degree in nursing. You may find a lay midwife you would like to work with, but keep in mind that some hospitals don't recognize their midwife title and may not be willing to ally with them.

Don't be afraid to ask for proof of training, and feel free to bring up any other concerns you may have. Your childbirth experience will be memorable, and you should do everything you can to make it a fond memory rather than a disappointing one. A great advantage to working with a midwife is the exceptionally personal, informative and nurturing experience she can provide, so make sure that the midwife you choose has the qualities that led you to midwifery in the first place.