pregnancy

Choosing a Midwife: What You Need to Know

woman speaking to a midwifeHave you considered working with a midwife for your delivery but are confused about what that involves? HealthyWomen reached out to practicing midwife Michelle Grandy, CNM, and board member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, to get your most pressing questions answered.

1. What's the difference between working with a midwife and an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN)?
Midwives typically allow for more time during office visits and spend more time with women in labor. In addition, our philosophy of care emphasizes pregnancy and birth as normal events. We strive to avoid unnecessary medical interventions and promote normal, physiologic birth. We share the decision making with the woman and her partner—educating both about options available for their care. We tailor our care to meet the particular needs of our patients. Our training includes continuous labor support and learning the many techniques that sustain women as they journey through labor naturally.

Many OB-GYNs are trained to attend high-risk deliveries. As a consequence of that training, they may overuse tests and interventions, such as labor induction and cesarean section. Often, they schedule only 5 to 10 minutes for routine prenatal visits for healthy women. With such a short time available for visits, it can be difficult to tailor the care to the particular needs of the woman and her family.

Unlike certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives, many OB-GYNs have little or no formal training in supporting a woman during natural childbirth. And with an already overcrowded health care system, many are unable to dedicate the time and attention women need to accomplish this type of birth.

2. What kind of training do midwives have?
Midwives are dedicated to providing you with the personalized health care experience you deserve. When looking for a midwife who will best meet your needs, it is important to understand the different options available to you in the United States.

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs) have advanced education in midwifery. A CNM is a registered nurse with a master's or doctorate degree in midwifery. A CM has a bachelor's degree with a master's or doctorate in midwifery. Both CNMs and CMs graduate from a graduate-level midwifery education program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. And both CNMs and CMs provide general women's health care throughout a woman's lifespan. These services include general health checkups and physical exams; pregnancy, birth and postpartum care; well woman gynecologic care; and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.