Birthing with a midwife is becoming more popular among women seeking fewer medical interventions and a supportive approach to prenatal care, labor and birth.
With a midwife, if you’re having a healthy pregnancy without significant medical complications, you’re more likely to avoid risky interventions, such as labor induction and cesarean birth, and have your baby born through vaginal birth, says Holly Powell Kennedy, CNM, PhD, FACNM, FAAN, president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). You’re also more likely to breastfeed your baby with midwifery care.
Midwives believe women can trust their bodies to birth successfully with little or no intervention.
What to Expect
Midwife is old English for “with women.” During pregnancy, expect very individualized care from your midwife from your first prenatal appointment through baby’s first month of life, or longer.
In fact, midwives spend twice as much time, on average, with pregnant women and their partners than do physicians.
Midwives value this time with you and your partner to develop the close relationship that will empower your collaboration. Last year, a nationwide survey showed women who receive care from midwives rated their satisfaction 91%-95%.
Many midwifery practices offer the CenteringPregnancy prenatal program, in which you receive both individual care from your midwife but also participate in a small group with 8-12 other women of similar gestational ages for group sharing, education and support.
When it comes to birthing, your midwife will stay with you throughout labor and birth, providing support and care, and continue this care postpartum. You’ll have a broader variety of pain relief choices, including epidural, massage, relaxation, laboring and birthing in water, among other options.
If baby arrives healthy, you can hold her skin-to-skin immediately after birth. This helps baby stabilize her blood sugar and body temperatures faster, and start breastfeeding in that first hour post-birth.
Choose a Midwife
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) practice in all 50 states and in every healthcare setting, from hospitals and clinics to birthing centers and with home births.
Midwives provide women’s health care across the lifespan, including pregnancy care, from your first period to menopause and beyond—just like physicians. ACNM recommends getting care from a midwife who has graduated from an accredited midwifery program and who is licensed to practice in her state. Find a midwife at MyMidwife.org
Reduce Your Risks
Research shows birthing with a midwife definitely has its advantages, including:
- Lowest risk of cesarean (6.1% compared to 33% nationally with other providers).
- Greater chance of having vaginal birth (81%) compared to doctors (63%).
- Lowest rates of interventions like labor induction.
- Highest rates of breastfeeding, including starting and sustaining.
- Highest patient satisfaction scores.
Summary of Research on Midwifery Practice in the US (2012), ACNM
Joanne Goldbort, PhD, MSN, RN, is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University and an expert nurse adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.