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Certified Nurse-Midwives, Certified Midwives, and More

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What Are the Benefits of Using a Midwife?

Midwives can help women have a more natural childbirth experience. They often offer more personalized care than medical doctors, which includes taking the time to talk to the mother-to-be about her concerns and needs.

Some research suggests that midwives lower the risk of infant mortality and reduce the need for C-sections and other interventions. One study showed that births attended by a midwife had a 19% lower infant death rate and a 31% lower risk of delivering a low-birth-weight baby. Another study showed that nurse-midwives had 4.8% fewer C-section rate than obstetricians and used fewer resources, such as forceps and vacuums for delivery. (The reductions in mortality and complications, however, may be because midwives generally handle very few high-risk deliveries.)

Are There Any Risks to Using a Midwife?

Some states do not allow midwives to administer pain medications or to provide certain medical interventions such as electronic fetal monitoring.

And if there is a problem with the newborn, the midwife can only administer basic life support. At a hospital, obstetricians, pediatricians, and neonatologists can step in to handle these issues if they arise.

Most midwife-assisted births take place in hospitals, but some women prefer to give birth at home. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not endorse home births, because complications can occur even in otherwise normal pregnancies, and women who give birth at home don't have access to doctors or specialized medical equipment.

Giving birth at home can be especially risky if you are pregnant with more than one baby, or if you have gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or other risk factors. If you do decide to give birth at home and your doctor and midwife agree to it, have a plan for how you will get to a hospital in case problems occur during the birth.

How Do I Choose a Midwife?

Some obstetric/gynecologic practices have a midwife (or midwives) on staff. If yours doesn't, you can find a midwife in your area by contacting the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Make sure the midwife you choose is certified and licensed to practice in your state. Find someone who is experienced and trained in emergency procedures. It's also important to find someone you're comfortable with, who respects your wishes about your pregnancy and delivery.

Ask your prospective midwife about her position with regard to medical interventions such as continuous fetal monitoring, pain medication (including epidurals), inducing labor, and C-sections. Talk to a few midwives to find the one who best fits your needs.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on September 18, 2014
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