Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions about Midwifery

Midwives…when people hear the term, they often think of little old ladies running off to boil water while an expectant pioneer woman is panting and about to give birth in a field.  The reality may include boiling water for sterilization, but it may not. The reality may include a female midwife, but it may not. And beyond that, the reality is entirely different.

What Is a Midwife?

A midwife is a person trained to assist a mother in childbirth. Midwives also are a support to expectant moms throughout their entire pregnancy. They are your friend and advocate during the process, helping to ensure and implement your labor and delivery goals and needs. They provide personal, compassionate, educated, trained and competent obstetric and gynecological care. They will communicate with expectant moms and help them through their birthing decisions. Lee Alison Voi CNM, MSN with St. Luke’s adds “Certified Nurse-Midwives have a special skill in understanding the unique emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs of women.” A midwife will be by your side as you write a birth plan, and she’s there through the end to help you carry it out.

The Myths

Myth #1:  If I have a midwife, I must give birth at home.
Fact #1: While it is true that many midwives practice home birth, some do not. In fact certified nurse midwives typically work at hospitals alongside doctors. Certified professional midwives deliver at homes and birthing centers. Home births are less expensive than hospital deliveries, typically ranging from $2,500 to $4,000.

Myth #2: If I use a midwife, I must give birth naturally.
Fact #2: Yes, most midwives will advocate natural vaginal deliveries. However, for a hospital birth, you may choose epidurals and other forms of pain relief.

Myth #3: Insurance does not cover midwifery.
Fact #3: You should contact your insurance provider to find out whether they will cover part or all of your treatment under a midwife. As licensed medical professionals, many midwives are covered under insurance. Many midwives will work with your financial situation and some will barter for services.

Myth #4: If an emergency arises, the midwife will be unprepared to handle it.
Fact #4: Certified midwives are trained to handle emergencies and will provide proper equipment including IVs and oxygen for emergencies.

Myth #5: After I give birth, I may never see my midwife again.
Fact #5: Many midwives are certified for follow-up examinations, including a woman’s annual checkup and postnatal care.

Myth #6: Midwives are untrained and unqualified.
Fact #6: Certified midwives go through extensive training and education and must pass exams for certification. An apprenticeship may be included in their training. 

How to Find the Perfect Midwife for You:

Step 1: Ask Friends
Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. You may be surprised at the effectiveness of a simple Facebook post asking for tips. However, choose to solicit advice wisely and according to your own desires for privacy. You may want to choose to post only for friends to see your inquiry if you’re concerned about the response of well-meaning relatives and former high school buddies.

Step 2: Internet Research
Research local midwives on the internet. Most qualified midwives will have websites where you may read their philosophies, see their certifications and look up reviews on their care. You can learn a lot about midwives just from reading their websites. If you see photos of childbirth on a site and you are a private person, you may immediately have cause to pause. If you see someone sharing their faith and it lines up with your own, you may have found a great resource to explore.

Step 3: Interview Candidates
What are your personal priorities with your childbirth? Hospital or home? Epidural or no? Faith-based support? Financial coverage? First, determine what your priorities and goals are, then seek to find a midwife who will support you.

Questions to ask include:

  1. Are you certified? Where were you trained? Are your certifications up-to-date? (Ask for references and to see certificates.)
  2. How long have you been practicing? Experience?
  3. Do you provide service at hospitals?
  4. If considering a home birth, what supplies are provided vs. which materials will you need to purchase on your own?
  5. Are you covered under insurance?
  6. What are your strategies for emergency preparedness?
  7. What is your plan for emergency hospital transportation for home births if needed?
  8. Do you have an apprentice or backup if you are unable to be at the birth?
  9. Do you provide home visits or do you work from an office or your home?
  10. Do you provide postnatal care and women’s examinations beyond pregnancy?
  11. Prices and payment plans.
  12. References and recommendations.

Written by Delainey Marie O’Brien with Kristina Light. Delainey Marie O’Brien is studying to be a midwife.

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