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Rethinking Midwives

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As the battle of at-home births versus hospital births continues onwards, along with every other argument how about to care for, conceive and birth your child, it's always good to remember the facts. Today I want to talk about the facts of midwifery and maybe dispel some of the myths that may circulate about these wonderful care takers and professionals.

1. What is a midwife? A midwife is an individual that practices midwifery (yes, it's a word). Midwives can refer to men or women and are involved in helping with pregnancies in a variety of ways. They may provide caregiving to women involved with pregnancy and birth, and also help with primary care for women, provide them with advice and care related to reproductive health, gynecological exams, family planning and even menopausal stages.

2. Is a midwife just some woman who helps me deliver my baby in a bathtub at my house? No. This is just a small and narrow vision of the work that midwives do for women. In the United States there are predominantly two kinds of midwives. Nurse midwives are licensed professionals as advanced practice nurses, midwives or nurse midwives depending on the state. They are trained in nursing, midwifery care and often have higher degrees in public health or midwifery. They practice in hospitals, clinics and private offices and deliver babies not only in medical centers but also at homes. They are also able to prescribe medications.

A direct-entry midwife does not require prior education as a nurse. Direct-entry midwives learn their profession through self-studying, becoming an apprentice for an experienced midwife, or a program that specifically trains midwives separate from a nursing program. Direct-entry midwives are experienced in providing care to women during their childbearing cycle both in and out of hospitals. Direct-entry midwives may be certified, licensed or unlicensed.

3. Do I have to be a hippie to have a midwife? No! Romanticized stereotypes about midwives only being used by women who prefer natural births in their homes is completely wrong. The majority of nurse midwives deliver babies in hospitals and can provide anesthetic and medication if the woman decides. Midwives provide care in various ways and are ultimately professional and supportive resources for women who are pregnant, but also for other stages of life. Furthermore, many insurance companies to cover the use of nurse-midwives.

4. What are the advantages of having a midwife? Midwives are able to give you attention that many doctors cannot. Personal care, attention to your body, and often advice that is spiritual and supportive and not simply medical, are some of the advantages to having a midwife. Many midwives charge less than doctors (particularly direct-entry midwives) and can help you and support you through your natural childbirth, and the post-delivery of your child. Though many midwives cannot perform cesareans or medication for pain relief, many women are comfortable knowing that they can see a doctor if problems arise during their delivery.

Hopefully you've learned a thing or two about the range of services and skills midwives provide. Do you see an advantage to having a midwife? Would you have a midwife as part of your delivery support system?

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