Call it a hazard of my occupation, but as a certified nurse midwife, I often get asked, “What, exactly, is a midwife, anyway?” It’s a common question, for sure, and one I don’t mind answering because just by answering the question, I am engaging in one my favorite parts of being a midwife – education.
Certified Nurse Midwives are educated in both nursing and midwifery. They care for women from puberty through menopause and provide a wide array of health-care services for women, including gynecological exams, prescriptions, contraceptive counseling, and care for women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Most often, midwives work collaboratively with an obstetrician to provide patient-centered, comprehensive care for women.
Midwives generally take care of lower-risk pregnancies, which allows them the freedom and flexibility to spend more time on patient education, health promotion, and well-woman care. It is through individualized education and counseling that patients can begin to direct their own care. Midwives develop a partnership with the women and families they care for. We then work together to ensure they receive the type of health care they want.
For example, as a midwife, I spend a lot of time educating my patients about nutrition, exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. Pregnancy is an excellent opportunity for women to improve their health habits because they are more motivated by the health of their baby. This is a time when they are more likely to successfully quit smoking, decrease caffeine intake, start eating more healthily, and even begin exercising. I am honored to be present at such an opportune time for change in my patients’ lives, providing guidance and support for our patients – during the pregnancy and beyond.
Midwives also tend to focus less on “high tech” and more on “high touch.” Through their education and training, midwives develop a greater comfort with sitting back and letting patients’ pregnancies unfold on their own.
Midwives, while fully capable of intervening when necessary, are willing to work with patients to determine the necessity of certain tests or procedures. Midwives talk with women and their families to determine the value of interventions, assessing their utility, and then creating a plan of care together.
Some midwives work with OB/GYNs in a collaborative manner, which offers the best of both worlds for patients. These collaborations make it possible for even high-risk patients to receive midwifery care during their pregnancy. Midwives can still offer their high-touch support, guidance, and education while the OB/GYN can direct specialized health care to ensure the best possible outcome for their patients’ babies.
Midwives are dedicated to caring for the physical, psychological and social well-being of women throughout their lifetime. One of midwifery’s central beliefs is that a women’s body has the innate power to stay healthy, produce a healthy baby, and to heal itself.
For this reason and others, midwifery care is an excellent option for any woman seeking personalized, wellness-focused care for her reproductive health care needs.