Myths about Midwifery
After the obstetric-oriented births of the last 200 years or so, particularly since the mid-1900′s, there is a surge of women opting for or at least investigating the choice of home birthing, or using a midwife instead of a medical doctor.
Even with the information age, however, women have many questions about midwifery, and a number of myths have made the decision difficult, or have even made women avoid or reject midwifery as a birthing option altogether.
So let’s take a look at some of the myths:
Midwife Myth: Having a midwife birth is not a safe birthing option
Since most of the midwives practicing in the United States are nurse-midwives, in that they’re specially trained registered nurses, having a midwife is perfectly safe. They can provide more personalized care than a doctor, caring for only four or five women a month. This is an advantage because doctors may overlook things with their increased patient load. Like a doctor, midwives carry pagers and are on call 24/7.
Many women fear that something may go wrong during their pregnancy or delivery and that the midwife won’t be able to handle it or may actually interfere with getting extra doctor care if needed. This is not true. A midwife can recognize very quickly if there may be a birthing situation that requires a doctor, and will transfer the mother to a hospital, usually in an effort to prevent a crisis rather than avoid one. (Today’s Parent)
Midwife Myth: Having a midwife means having a home birth
It is interesting to note that in Canada, 75 percent of midwife-assisted births happen in hospitals. Midwives operate with the understanding and belief that the mother always has the right to choose. Even if a mother is transferred to a doctor’s care for medical purposes, midwives always attend the birth, and are responsible for the health of the baby once he’s born.
Midwife Myth: Having a midwife means no drugs
While midwives educate and help pregnant mothers manage pain without medication, some women do want the option of having an epidural. Usually an epidural requires transfer to a hospital and the care of an anesthesiologist. Nevertheless, the midwife is still present during the delivery.
Midwife Myth: Midwives have no formal training
“A midwife is a trained professional with special expertise in supporting women to maintain a healthy pregnancy, birth, offering expert individualized care, education, counseling and support to a woman and her newborn throughout the childbearing cycle … however just because a person is a midwife does not guarantee that they provide this kind of care … ask questions to determine if a prospective caregiver will be able to provide the kind of care” you need. (Citizens for Midwifery) In Canada, midwives are required to complete a four-year university program where they concentrate on pregnancy, labor, birth and care of newborns. Similar educational practices are required in the United States.
Midwife Myth: Doulas and midwives are the same
A doula offers the same emotional and physical support during labor as a midwife, but she does not deliver babies. The midwife’s training focuses more on the medical, while the doula’s is non-medical. In some cases, a midwife is also a doula with the added advantage of being educated in relaxation techniques, positioning and other “non-medicinal pain-relief measures.” (Today’s Parent) Many doulas, like midwives, do provide postpartum care and breastfeeding support.
Midwife Myth: Midwives only deliver babies
Nurse-midwives in the United States provide prenatal care and perform deliveries, but they also provide “gynecological care from adolescence to menopause. Teaching women how to prevent disease and maintain good health throughout their lives … Nurse-midwives work in collaboration with physicians” (Mannering) and care for women through all stages of life.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Frequently Asked Questions about Midwives and Midwifery. Citizens for Midwifery. Web. Apr 16, 2012.
“Myths of Midwifery” Embrett, Cheryl. Today’s Parent Magazine. Web. Apr 16, 2012.
“Myths of Nurse-Midwifery” Mannering, Colleen. Harvard Vanguard. Web. Apr 16, 2012.
The Responsibilities and Role of a Midwife. EmpowHER.com
Rethinking Midwives. EmpowHER.com
Pain Relief During Labor. EmpowHER.com