What Midwives Actually Do
The mention of midwives is often a litmus test to a person's knowledge of women's medical care. Those who are well-versed on the subject have usually experienced the care of a midwife. The midwifery profession is exploding and, considering medicine's reliance on midwives to facilitate healthy reproductive lives for so many, an important field to understand.
Let's take a look at what midwives do and the truth about the important role they play in reproductive health.
Midwives work with women of any age
Many people might assume that midwives work only with pregnant women, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Assuming you are a person assigned female at birth who has undergone puberty, midwives provide relevant and vital services to your lifelong well-being. From menarche to menopause, midwives consult on and provide birth control, perform pap smears and diagnose and treat STIs and UTIs.
A midwife's youngest patients are teenage and pre-teen girls needing help with irregular bleeding or sexual education. A midwife also sees mature women experiencing menopause or who are well past menopause for aid with vaginal wellness.
When a midwife treats pregnant women, these patients may have known their midwife before because of the aforementioned care. The midwife may be involved in the entire prenatal process, from the time a woman knows she's pregnant until she gives birth.
The same midwife may also be involved in the woman's follow-up care after delivery to make sure the woman's reproductive and mental health return to non-pregnancy conditions. She may even assist the mother in choosing and obtaining temporary or permanent birth control if the woman wishes this to be her last child.
Midwives assist in home births and hospitals
The thought of a midwife often conjures up an image of an at-home, natural birth. In actuality, home births are relatively rare. Most midwives work in hospitals, while others go into teaching.
While the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada takes no stance on home births for uncomplicated pregnancies, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists actively opposes home births as placing "the process of giving birth ahead of the goal of having a healthy baby."
Licensed midwives receive years of education
One might think midwives receive little to no training, but there are a few routes into midwifery and all require multiple years of advanced education.
A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) was trained as a registered nurse (RN) and has a bachelor's of science and nursing, as well as a master's of science and midwifery. One of the advantages of a CNM is their professional experience as a nurse, regardless of the field of care. A CNM may have a history as an RN, whether as a labor and delivery nurse or in another field of care but has also obtained a master's degree to specialize in midwifery.
A CM (Certified Midwife) does not have a nursing degree or professional nursing experience. CMs and CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) entered the midwifery profession directly, usually through a non-nursing-based program from a college or university.
You can be seen by a midwife and an OB-GYN
Midwives and OB-GYNs work side-by-side and many women's health clinics employ both. A midwife and an OB-GYN collaborate on a patient's well-being by consulting one another. Logistically, a midwife will always have an obstetrical or surgical back-up when working the labor floor in case of an emergency C-section or other complications.
The various acronyms can blur together for a laywoman, but nurse-midwifery is a burgeoning career focusing on holistic care to facilitate healthy reproductive outcomes. A midwife may refer clients with more complicated conditions to specialists, but most of a woman's reproductive health care is in safe and knowledgeable hands with a midwife.