I was recently lunching with a friend that had given birth to an adorable baby boy a few months ago. It was the first time we had met up since she became a mother and she finally had a chance to tell me the full story of his birth. It was very difficult and a constant refrain was “I wish I had chosen a midwife” “If I ever get pregnant again, I’m definitely choosing a midwife” “We NEED more midwives!” I was sad she had experienced such a difficult pregnancy, labor AND postpartum. I am frequently faced with pregnant women who are trying to make choices for their pregnancy and birth. I always suggest they look into midwives and it seems like very few, if any, take my advice.
I asked my friend, “I’m glad you feel so strongly about the benefits of having a midwife. Why do you think women don’t choose midwives?”
Through her response and our discussion, I realized there are a few common myths or misconceptions about midwives. If only women knew the facts! I’m sure more women would chose midwives and have a happier and healthier birth experience. So here’s the truth, and nothing but the truth:
1. MYTH: Midwives aren’t medically trained to deliver babies.
FACT: Certified Midwives (both Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives) are well experienced, well trained, professionals! Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) have gone to school to become RN (Registered Nurses) and then went back to college to get an additional degree specializing in midwifery. They then take a nationally recognized certification exam.
FACT: Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) have two routes: complete a 2+yr academic program in addition to getting 2+years clinical experience (at home births and/or in a birth clinic), or complete 3+ years of intense clinical experience. Both routes require the midwife to take the same nationally recognized certification exam as CNMs and get licensed in their state.
FACT: Both CNMs and CPMs provide all of your prenatal care and are the only ones needed at your birth to deliver your baby. Midwives are qualified to provide care for you and your newborn for at least 2 months after birth.
2. MYTH: Midwives aren’t as good as OB/GYNs.
FACT: Historically, midwives have been around longer than OB/GYNs and have passed their generations of information onto one another. Midwives trained some of the first OB’s.
FACT: Midwives are trained to trust, encourage, and guide normal labor. Roughly 85-90% of births are “normal” and do not require emergency surgery. OB/GYNs are trained to combat complicated births and therefore tend to treat birth as an illness or problem. Midwives have seen more natural, safe, healthy births than OB/GYNs with decades more of experience (many OB/GYNs have never seen a natural birth!). Midwives have numerous techniques they can use to help aid a difficult labor before resulting to interventions such as induction, forceps, episiotomy, or cesarian. While midwives rely on natural methods first, they are NOT against medicine, and they are thankful for the benefits hospitals can offer for births that truly need medical intervention.
FACT: Midwives care about all of you; mind, body and spirit. They acknowledge the effect your mental, emotional and spiritual health has on your physical health. The average prenatal visit with a midwife is +1hr, while the average OB/GYN visit is 15 minutes.
4. MYTH: Midwives aren’t as safe as OB/GYNs.
FACT: Midwives have better maternal and infant outcomes than OB/GYNs. The average cesarian rate for a midwife is 10%, while for an OB/GYN it is around 32% or more (resource ACNM)! To give credit where it is due – midwives have lower rates partially because midwives only take on low risk, healthy mothers while many OB/GYNs have to take on more complicated pregnancies. But there is also the factor that midwives treat the whole woman, anticipate health problems and treat them before they become serious and trust natural birth.
FACT: Midwives give better personal and more thorough prenatal, labor and postpartum care. As stated above, they spend more time with you, get to know you better and see signs of potential health risks earlier than an OB/GYN would. They know your personal health and help you combat pregnancy complications (such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes) before they become serious health issues and risk you out of their care. They use natural, healthy ways (such as diet, exercise, and herbal medicine) to help you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy.
5. MYTH: Midwives cost too much.
FACT: Midwives are cheaper than OB/GYN. The average midwife costs roughly $4,000 for all of your prenatal care AND birth (this varies by the midwife, their practice, their experience and location). The average OB/GYN prenatal care costs $1,500. Then the birth can cost over $40,000 (I’ve heard over $100,000 as well)!
FACT: Even if your insurance covers the cost of an OB/GYN but doesn’t cover a midwife, you can end up paying MORE out of pocket for an OB/GYN, depending on how the birth goes. Be sure you know your policy and what “emergencies”, “complications” and additional fees they do NOT cover. You may find yourself paying more for mediocre prenatal care and a disappointing birth experience.
What facts and myths affect your decision on a healthcare provider?