Debunking 8 Myths About Midwives

From Old English origins, the word “midwife” means “with woman.” Midwives have supported laboring mothers for centuries. With advancements in technology and the evolution of the health care system, more women relied on doctors. As a result, more births occurred in hospitals, and centuries-old myths developed about midwives.

In Canada and the U.S., most pregnant women choose doctors to deliver their babies. In many other nations, however, 90% of deliveries are accompanied by midwives. Mothers in other parts of the world are more likely to use alternative care during labor, and that may be due to a Western misunderstanding about the nature of midwives.

There are stigmas associated with midwives in America. Some pregnant women fear there will be consequences by not delivering their babies in hospital settings. Although midwife-led births are in demand, some soon-to-be moms are still apprehensive about midwives and their services. Since misconceptions persist, it’s time to debunk 8 myths about midwives.

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8 Myth : Doctors are Safer Than Midwives

For hundreds of years, midwives helped pregnant women deliver babies. Somewhere in history, they became known as labor coaches who boiled water, and helped women through childbirth, but they didn’t have any formal training. The assumption is midwives are not scientific, and not nearly as capable as doctors. For some reason, people have gotten the wrong idea about midwife-led care.

To set the record straight, midwives receive extensive training. Their formal education involves obstetrics, gynecology, and infant care. They need to pass examinations in order to be deemed certified. Not only are they perfectly safe, but they provide women with more intensive care than most physicians.

Studies show that midwives added major benefits to women and their pregnancies. When prenatal care was led by midwives, there were fewer health problems. Pregnant women were less likely to deliver before 37 weeks, and epidurals and episiotomies were not performed as often. Additional studies show a reduction in labor times. 

After labor, new mothers experienced an easier time with breastfeeding because of their interventions with midwives. All in all, new mothers were generally happy with their midwife experiences.

7 Myth : All Midwives Are Alike

There are several different types of midwifery practices. Each type of midwife has specialized training.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

Certified Nurse-Midwives are registered nurses. Besides a degree in nursing, they hold a graduate degree in midwifery. They provide several services including counseling, prenatal and postpartum care. During labor and delivery, CNMs are highly trained to provide hands-on support. They are an integral part of the birth process, offering care to laboring women and their babies.

Certified Midwife (CM)

Certified Midwives must pass a certified midwifery program, and they need to be licensed and approved to practice.

Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)

Certified ProfessionalMidwives are trained medical professionals who provide physical and emotional maternal support. Although they do not require a degree, they are certified. As an integral part of the birth process, they offer care to laboring women and newborns.

6 Myth Midwives Are Only Used In Home Births

Throughout history, women of different cultures have given birth to babies in their homes. Today, the tradition continues, as many women around the world experience childbirth outside of a hospital setting with a skilled midwife at hand.This may be the reason why many people associate midwives with home births.

The truth is midwives work in diverse settings. Some groups work in birthing centers and midwifery clinics while others are present during private home births. The vast majority of midwife-assisted births are performed in hospitals alongside doctors, where midwives use the same advanced technology that is available to obstetricians.

With a midwife, you have the option of giving birth in various settings. It's up to you whether you have a hospital or a home birth. 25% of pregnant women who use midwives choose home births, but it’s a personal choice. 

5 Myth : Midwives Only Assistant in Delivering Babies

There’s a preconceived notion that a midwife merely assists in a birth. In reality, midwives do virtually anything and everything to better maternal, fetal and newborn health.

A midwife will probably spend more time with you than your obstetrician. In labor, they encourage your progress and coach you throughout the delivery.

In addition to health visits, gynecological exams, and preventive care, CNMs can diagnose patients and act as a primary care medical professional. With specialized services under their belts, certified nurse midwives are essential parts of the medical team.

They sit alongside women as they go through labor, but they are more than just a companion. These services are provided to help women make a smooth transition into motherhood.

4 Myth : Midwives Reject Pain Medications

While their training allows them to support soon-to-be mothers through natural childbirths, not all women choose the same options. Labor pain is unique to each person, and no one option works for every woman.

Midwives are well versed in non-pharmaceutical techniques. Massage therapy, acupressure, and other forms of labor pain management are offered to women in labor. But holistic methods are not the only plan.

Roughly 80% of hospital births use pain medications, specifically epidurals. If a woman wishes to have an epidural, a midwife will not object. Likewise, if a mother-to-be requests a water birth, she will oblige to the best of her ability. They adjust to a woman’s needs.

Midwives ensure women have all of the necessary information to make smart decisions. It’s all about what the soon-to-be mother wants. Midwives respect a woman’s right. The dedication of the job requires midwives to work with mothers-to-be, not impose their own opinions.

3 Myth : Midwives Can’t Handle High-Risk Pregnancies

Most deliveries are routine, but midwives are ready for variations in labor. They are trained to deal with uncommon obstetrical emergencies, including hemorrhage after delivery, and infant resuscitation.

Many midwives collaborate with physicians. For the majority of pregnant women, prenatal and postpartum issues are typical and free from serious complications. Despite the ease of most deliveries, midwives are trained to deal with situations that fall outside of the norm. High-risk pregnancies can be co-managed by a doctor. When women need Cesarean sections or instrument-assisted labors, the midwife and the obstetrician combine their expertise to handle medical emergencies.

Also, we all have unique personalities. When faced with physical pain and emotional stress, tensions can run high. Sometimes, people who are involved in labor need to be calmed down. Midwives offer various levels of care based on the patient and her family’s needs. There’s no need to remain skeptical about midwives or their qualifications. Simply ask about their experiences, and the crises they have faced with other patients.

2 Myth : Doula is Another Name For Midwife

Midwives are certified medical professionals that work in private and public venues. They are health care providers employed by hospitals, private clinics, or they are hired directly by clients. They can supervise prenatal care, including gynecological exams. Midwives also have a license to write prescriptions for certain medications.

Generally, clients choose to work with midwives when they want attentive medical care. Doctors do not always have time to provide the intensive care that a midwife can offer. And for those who desire a home birth, midwives can make this dream a reality. A doctor would not necessarily make a concession for this request.

Doulas have distinct, independent roles. Doulas are pregnancy and birth coaches who work alongside doctors and midwives, but they are not medical professionals. Although they have knowledge of pregnancy and birth, doulas provide emotional and physical support. They establish a connection with the entire family, from pregnancy to delivery and beyond.

There is a distinct difference between a doula and a midwife

During labor, a doula can provide alternative pain remedies, such as massage therapy. A postpartum doula can help with the care of the baby, postpartum healing, breastfeeding, and even food preparation and household chores.

Some couples choose to have both a midwife and a doula because they both provide immeasurable support throughout pregnancy and labor. Both are dedicated to providing a wide array of information and care, but they are two different jobs. Whether you choose an obstetrician, a midwife, or a doula, it’s nice to know there is a whole slew of people to support you through your pregnancy and childbirth.  

1 Myth : Only Pregnant Women Need Midwives

Midwives are experts in pregnancy and labor, but they do a lot more than just deliver babies. In fact, women of all ages, pregnant or not, can use the services of a midwife.

Top reasons to visit a midwife:

  • Test for a sexually transmitted infection
  • Pap smear
  • Family planning
  • Gynecological exam
  • Birth control counseling
  • Prenatal exam
  • Prescription medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Vaccination
  • Order a diagnostic test, such as an ultrasound

From puberty to menopause and beyond, midwives can provide annual health checkups. Many people do not realize that midwives are primary health care providers for women during all stages of life.

Midwives focus on women’s health. They provide major benefits in terms of wellness, spending more one-on-one time with their clients than doctors. Besides comprehensive care, many midwives bring a holistic approach to treatment and care. A longtime relationship can be built when your midwife becomes your ally and a trusted health care provider.

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