Midwives - Nurse Practitioners, Women's Health, Childbirth and More
Midwives are coming into their own in North America. While they are, and have been, a well-established profession in most of Europe, North America has clung to the medical model of childbirth, using ob-gyn doctors and hospitals and clinics as the primary method of delivering babies.
But giving birth is a natural thing for women, and as women in this century are regaining their sense of power and understanding that pregnancy is not an illness, nurse practitioners and midwives are playing an even greater role in prenatal care, women's health, and primary care for pregnant women. They have often been associated with natural health and alternative medicine, however, many midwives work out of hospitals and clinics and are able to deliver or assist in delivery for both natural births and vaginal births that require pain medications.
Obstetrics and gynecology focus on the potential problems and difficulties associated with women's health, pregnancy and labor, whereas midwifery emphasizes the normalcy of pregnancy while, at the same time, acknowledging the delicacy and vulnerability of the pregnancy process. Midwives are more focused on the mental and emotional well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. They provide education regarding natural birth, home birth, breastfeeding, prenatal care, and continuous hands-on aid in labor and delivery.
There are many different kinds of midwives with varying levels of expertise and training. The Physician-Assistant Midwife is a health care professional licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. They conduct physical exams, assist in surgery and write prescriptions. To become a PA midwife, they take the necessary training in the specialized field of midwifery. They work in hospitals or clinics and are able to assist in childbirth, whether it is vaginal birth or a c-section. They can administer pain medication if required or desired, and are also able to perform a circumcision if that is requested by the family. Nurses who have completed the n
ursing program and have decided to become certified in midwifery are replacing certified nurse-midwives, also known as nurse-practitioners, primarily because of the large insurance encumbrances associated with malpractice suits. There are also certified midwives who have not trained as nurses in the traditional medical setting and are able to practice midwifery on the basis of state or midwifery organization certifications.
A midwife has built a relationship with the mother and family of the baby she is preparing to help deliver, having done so through the many prenatal visits with the mother. During these visits she may help with birth planning - will the baby be born at home or in a hospital or birth clinic - as well as doing the routine examinations. She will check the uterus to ensure the cervix is healthy and can help with delivery matters like Lamaze breathing techniques. She can also perform fetal monitoring and if there is a suspected problem, she will refer her client to a medical doctor for an ultrasound to make sure the fetus is progressing well and without difficulty. If the baby is born at home, she will examine the placenta to ensure all is well with both mother and child. Again, if there is a problem with the mother, or baby - such as a situation with the umbilical cord, she is quick to get medical help should it be necessary.
The midwife has a very important task in terms of women's health education and counseling - not only for women, but for their families and communities in general. Preparation for parenthood, prenatal care, women's health issues, reproductive health and childcare are just some of the subjects a trained and experienced midwife can address. By educating and disarming the myths around midwifery and natural childbirth, women and their families can experience the joy of pregnancy and birth in a more natural way.