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Thinking About a Nurse-Midwife? What You Need To Know

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Births attended by nurse-midwives have jumped significantly in recent years, accounting for 12.1 percent of all vaginal births in the United States in 2014. More and more expectant mothers are choosing nurse-midwives – and with positive results.

From Pregnancy to Nursery

Nurse-midwives are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who hold a master’s degree or higher and have advanced education and training in the art of midwifery. They provide care for mother and child through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

“Nurse-midwives offer complete care for low-risk mothers,” says Katherine Austinson, a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) at University Hospitals.

This includes:

  • Prenatal visits
  • Prescription medicine
  • Attendance at vaginal births
  • Counseling for infant feeding
  • Gynecological care

Though nurse-midwives are licensed independent providers, they are able to consult with their physician collaborators for more complicated or higher-risk pregnancies. Most nurse-midwives are usually employed by a hospital or doctors’ practice. In 2017, 97.3 percent of all midwife-attended births occurred in hospitals and birthing centers. But, Ms. Austinson adds, “If a woman’s pregnancy and birth are uncomplicated, she may never need to see a doctor.”

Successful, Low-Tech Pregnancies

Research shows that mothers and babies fare as well with nurse-midwives as they do with doctors. Women who receive care from nurse-midwives also report high satisfaction rates with their overall care and knowledge received from their provider.

“A nurse-midwife may be a good choice for women who prefer to limit medical tests and procedures,” Ms. Austinson says. Women under the care of nurse-midwives are less likely to have a cesarean section, she says. They also are less likely to receive:

  • Induced labor
  • Electronic fetal monitoring
  • Epidural anesthesia
  • An episiotomy, or a small incision to enlarge the vaginal opening at birth

Women who seek midwifery care often want fewer interventions and look for other birthing alternatives, such as water birth. Women may also seek midwifery care if they desire a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), as they want a provider who will be supportive and advocate on their behalf.

Make sure to choose a nurse-midwife who is certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board in his or her state.

RELATED LINKS

University Hospitals has the largest, most experienced midwifery team in the Cleveland area, attending to more than 1,000 vaginal births annually. Learn more about choosing your options for prenatal care, labor and delivery at UH. 

Sign up for free weekly pregnancy and parenting emails to guide you through pregnancy, labor/delivery and the first years of your baby's life, with news and information from the medical experts at University Hospitals and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

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