May holds International Day of the Midwife. Midwives have attended to my prenatal care and delivery in two of my three pregnancies. They have played a vital part in the success of my birth plans and have encouraged me in the labor marathons when I felt like giving up just feet from the finish line. It is with the utmost appreciation and respect that I give thanks to the strong skilled women who hold this title and explain why I turn to the midwifery care model as my first choice in prenatal through postpartum care and everything in between.
Model of Care
The Midwifery Model of Care is based on the belief that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes. It does not support routinely using medical procedures if there is no clear reason or if their use is not supported by evidence. The array of a midwife services are surprisingly unknown to many. Outside of prenatal and delivery care, a midwife is a professional who can provide gynecological examinations, contraceptive counseling, preconception care, prescriptions, and full postpartum and newborn care. The services a midwife can offer do depend on their certification and licensing credentials and the practice restrictions of each state and/or health group they operate under. Some midwives are independent allowing for a bit more freedom, and some operate in a clinical setting or in a hospital group and may have to follow institutional policies. I have used midwifery care in both a hospital setting and in a planned homebirth. In my experience, both care providers had excellent relationships with an entire network of support staff and backup care providers should they have been needed.
According to the American College of Nurse Midwives, benefits of receiving midwifery care include:
- Decreased risk of needing a cesarean
- Reduced rate of labor induction and augmentation
- Reduced use of regional anesthesia
- Decreased infant mortality rates
- Decreased third and fourth degree perineal tears
- Lower costs for both clients and insurers
- Increased chances of having a positive start to breastfeeding
- Increased satisfaction with overall care
A successful and good midwife will know the limits of their capabilities just like any other medical professional and will transfer care in the event that it is needed. Midwives are not typically the primary caregivers for those in high risk pregnancies.
Postpartum Attention and Care
Depending on the setting in which the midwife is under – for example clinic vs home care – you may never have to leave your bed during those first two weeks. Having my postpartum check-ups right in my home was a dream. We didn’t have to pack up our newborn and expose him to a clinic where both the sick and well waited for appointments. I didn’t have to struggle stuffing my bleeding, sore body into presentable clothing and get myself out the door when I wasn’t physically or mentally ready. I could rest and I could let my care provider come to me. Midwives can provide postpartum care, lactation advice, and access to lactation consultants who also provide home visits, guidance on newborn care issues, and newborn assessments and screenings. With an exception of the hearing screening, I had all the suggested newborn testing done right in the comfort of my home by my Midwife and sent right into my pediatrician’s office.
Mothers Matter Too
It is often said, “all that matters is a healthy baby.” Well I believe mothers matter too. I don’t want to be left feeling like just a carrying vessel. I want my feelings, my needs, and my health and well-being to be put as a priority as well. My experience with midwifery care has put me at the center. I have felt empowered, educated, and in charge of my body. My emotional needs were never ignored, my desire for information and to understand both sides of each decision was never belittled, and I felt cared for as an individual. Grossly dismissed by many is the theory that “if a woman receives care that she feels is traumatic or disrespectful, it can affect her physical and emotional health and healing after birth and can interrupt the critical early bonding period with her baby.” I can absolutely speak to this from experience. Immediately after my first birth, at the highest point in my life, it was disrespectful words spoken by both a doctor and a family member that brought me to the floor weeping during that first shower in the hospital bathroom, alone, crushed and powerless by the loss of confidence and trust. Those words are forever imprinted in my head. They will forever be associated with my first birth experience. My emotional recovery afterwards was a long, lonely journey. However, it was the emotional power I realized those words had over me that set me on the path to make any future birth experiences better. To become educated and put my hands on all the tools necessary to improve my health care and labor and delivery experiences and to hand pick every person that would be a part of it.
The Same Hands
Midwifery care has the benefit of giving you the same care provider from the first appointment to delivery and postpartum. With an exception of some groups of midwives who may rotate on-call shifts, you will get the same set of hands for it all. The same hands that checked my blood pressure, fed me food in the middle of that long labor. The same hands that took my weight and measurements at my prenatal appointments, massaged my back when the contractions hit hard. The same hands that helped guide my baby out and to my chest, pulled my hair back and secured it in place when I was moments from becoming a mother. The connection with my care providers was so strong that I was in tears thinking about our “goodbye” appointment before my last postpartum check-up. And it was those hands that embraced me during the most simple, yet most healing, powerful words I have ever had a care provider tell me.. “You are amazing mother. You really are.” Words are so powerful, aren’t they?
Everyone has different health care preferences and I in no way intend to offer any medical advice here. Only encouragement to decide who and what model of care is best for you and to expose some of the lesser known benefits that using a midwife can offer! You should know that you can switch care providers at any point in your pregnancy if you feel you are not receiving the best care. Your Mama Bear instincts start well before your cub is earth side.
Choosing a caregiver is one of the most important decisions a pregnant woman will make. This choice can influence the entire pregnancy experience; emotional, physical, and mental. The care you receive and the outcomes of that care will forever be part of your pregnancy and birth experience. Do what you can to make yours a positive one!