Both of my babies were born into the gentle hands of midwives, and I will sing the praises of these amazing woman for the rest of my life.
My midwives were highly trained, experienced, and educated (i.e., they knew their shit and based their practices on the latest medical recommendations). But besides all that, their kind, attentive bedside manner went above and beyond anything I’d ever experienced by an MD or other health professional.
I felt listened to, loved, and cared for on a deep level. I was treated like a real person whose wants and needs were valued. Everything that happened during my prenatals and births was explained to me in detail. Nothing was done without my consent. And yet, I was assured that if anything required more expertise than my midwives could offer, I’d be put under the care of an MD ASAP.
As you may have guessed, I was considered “low-risk,” which was why I was eligible for midwifery care in the first place. Certainly, high-risk moms should be in the care of an MD. No compromise on that. We all deserve the best medical attention for our particular situation.
But I think many moms who might be looking for a gentler birth—or a birth with fewer interventions—may not realize just how incredible midwifery care can be. And it’s not just for “crunchy” moms either. Most midwives work in hospitals, under the guidance of MD’s. You can even get an epidural if you use a midwife, if that’s something you want (and no shame in that!).
If you want further proof that midwives are a great option for low-risk women craving a less intervention-heavy birth, check out this new study that came out in the November 2017 issue of Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. The study, led by researchers Laura Attanasio and Katy Kozhimannil, looked at the health outcomes of women who gave birth with midwives at New York hospitals over the course of one year.
What they found is that women whose births were attended by midwives had lower odds of experiencing two common labor interventions: C-sections and episiotomies. Not only that, but midwife-attended births were not associated with differences in severe obstetric morbidity or labor induction.
This is awesome news for moms who are considering midwifery care (as well as for the moms who have been singing the praises of midwives for years!).
“This study is contributing to a body of research which shows that good outcomes for women at low risk in childbirth go hand-in-hand with lower use of medical procedures,” Attanasio explains, in a press release from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “And, there is increasing attention now to overuse of cesarean and other procedures that are not resulting in better outcomes for mom and baby.”
The researchers note that the number of births attended by midwives in the United States is actually quite low currently, and increasing that number is a goal we all should have in mind if we want offer less intervention-heavy birthing options for women. Among the 126 New York hospitals the researchers studied, about 25% had no midwives on hand. About 50% of these hospitals did have midwives present, but they only attended about 15% of the births.
But this is not the case in other developed countries around the world. As Attanasio and Kozhimannil point out, while midwives attend about 9 percent of U.S. births, in countries like Australia, France and the U.K., that number is more in the range of 66% of all births.
Big difference, huh? We’ve got to get on with fixing that, for sure.
And, as the researchers point out, midwifery care is not just about some sort of “feel-good” approach for moms (though that’s important too), but fewer interventions lead to healthier outcomes for both moms and babies. Plus, they are good from an economic standpoint, as the births that midwives attend generally cost less, without sacrificing good, high-quality care.
“More midwife-attended births may be correlated with fewer obstetric procedures, which could lower costs without lowering the quality of care,” say the study researchers. “This raises the possibility of improving value in maternity care through greater access to midwifery care for childbearing women in the United States.”
So, what can someone like you or me do to increase the rates of midwife-assisted births in our country? First, if you’ve had a good birth with a midwife, shamelessly shout their praises from the rooftops. Encourage your low-risk birthing friends to hire a midwife. And tell your doctors that you’d love more options like that in your community.
Additionally, if your area doesn’t have the option of midwifery care, you might want to contact your legislators to advocate for it. As Kozhimannil explains: “From a policy perspective, this study should encourage legislators and regulators to consider efforts to safely expand access to midwifery care for low-risk pregnancies.”
AMEN. With an increasing awareness of the need for less medicalized and more women-centered births across the board, this study bring some welcome news, and we should all take note.
And to the midwives out there who are joyfully and tirelessly helping moms have the kind of safe and empowering births that they want, three cheers to you. Thank you for all you do. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
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