A trained and licensed healthcare professional, a midwife helps pregnant women with delivery and ensures optimal health pre, during and post pregnancy. Midwives are unofficial experts at performing normal deliveries, encouraging medication-free deliveries. If an issue develops or there are pregnancy complications, a midwife may refer the patient to an obstetrician. Midwives are typically known for carrying out home births and are common in rural areas or places lacking adequate medical infrastructure.
What Midwives Do or Can Do?
A midwife can offer complete intrapartum, prenatal and postpartum care along with diagnosis of multiple gynecological issues affecting women. In fact, all pregnancy and delivery aspects such as birth control, infertility, Pap smears, etc. can be handled by midwives. However, they aren’t qualified to carry out surgery and perform other high-risk medical tasks. For instance, midwives don’t do Caesarean sections.
Midwives don’t just focus on birth and pregnancy. Many perform women’s yearly gynecological tests and standard check-ups, and order laboratory tests. They may also assist the male partner control a sexually transmitted disease and conduct baby boy circumcisions.
There are different midwifery certifications; those vary across regions. Some may have education in both midwifery and nursing. They are certified nurse-midwives (CNM), with an undergraduate degree in nursing and postgraduate midwifery degree. Midwives without a nursing background are called certified midwives (CM). They possess a postgraduate degree in midwifery.
Generally, most midwives are CNMs. Besides, there are some midwives who prefer not to get licensed or certified for religious, philosophical, or personal reasons. These midwives are usually called community-based or traditional midwives.
Midwife vs. Doctor
Compared to doctors, midwives are known to adopt a more personal and hands-on approach. They hear the patients out and empathize with their situation much better. Midwives spend much more quality time with patients compared to doctors. However, a midwife is not by herself. She requires a qualified medical doctor to back her efforts. Most doctors don’t recommend midwife services if those are not under a doctor’s direct supervision.
As aforementioned, midwives do not take up complicated medical scenarios, such as a pregnant woman with epilepsy, high blood pressure, diabetes, or serious previous pregnancy complications. If preeclampsia or premature labor is impending, or if the midwife discovers a multi-child pregnancy, the patient would be transferred to a perinatologist or obstetrician.
A midwife can be employed in a hospital’s midwifery department, private homes, or birth centers. Midwives may also have private practices. Those working within the hospital environment can choose to work with sophisticated technology: fetal monitors, ultrasound, emergency and lab analysis equipment, etc.
Midwives are not available in all hospitals or community settings. Also, the general public is usually not well familiar with a midwife compared to an obstetrician, nurse or family practitioner. Some health insurance companies may not provide reimbursement for midwife services performed outside a medical setup.