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Midwifery myths set straight

The profession of midwifery has evolved with today’s modern healthcare system. But there are many myths about midwifes in the United States based on centuries-old images or simple misunderstandings. You might be surprised to learn the truth about some of these common midwifery myths.

True or False?

Q: Midwives have no formal education.

False: Most midwives in the United States have a master’s degree and are required to pass a national certification examination. There are many different kinds of midwives, each holding different certifications based on their education and/or experience. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Midwives (CMs) attend approximately 93 percent of all midwife-attended births in the United States, and as of 2010 they are required to have a master’s degree in order to practice midwifery.

Q: Midwives and physicians work together.

True: Midwives have expert knowledge and skill in caring for women through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. But they also do much more. CNMs and CMs provide healthcare services to women an all stages of life, from the teenage years through menopause, including general health check-ups, screenings and vaccinations; pregnancy, birth and postpartum care; well women gynecologic care; treatment of sexually transmitted infections; and prescribing medications, including all forms of pain control medications and birth control.

Q: Midwives can prescribe medications and order tests.

True: CNMs and CMs are licensed to prescribe a full range of substances, medications and treatments, including pain control medications and birth control. They can also order needed medical tests within their scope of practice and consistent with state laws and practice guidelines.

Q: Midwives cannot care for me if I have a chronic health condition or my pregnancy is considered high risk.

False: Midwives are able to provide different levels of care depending on a woman’s individual health needs. If you have a chronic health condition, a midwife may still be able provide some or all of your direct care services. In other cases, a midwife may play more of a supportive role and help you work with other healthcare providers to address your personal healthcare challenges. In a high-risk pregnancy, a midwife can help you access resources to support your goals for childbirth, provide emotional support during challenging times or work along side specialists who are experts in your high risk condition to ensure safe, healthy outcomes.

Q: Midwives offer pain relief to women during labor.

True: Midwives are leading experts in how to cope with labor pain. As a partner with you in your healthcare, your midwife will explain pain relief options and help you develop a birth plan that best fits your personal needs and desires. Whether you wish to use methods such as relaxation techniques or movement during labor or try IV, epidural or other medications, your midwife will work with you to help meet your desired approach to birth. At the same time, your midwife will provide you with information and resources about the different options and choices available if any changes to your birth plan become necessary or if you change your mind.

Q: Midwives only attend births at home.

False: Midwives practice in many different settings, including hospitals, medical offices, freestanding birth centers, clinics, and/or private settings such as your home. In fact, because many women who choose a midwife for their care wish to deliver their babies in a hospital, many hospitals in the United States offer an in-house midwifery service. And because midwives are dedicated to one-on-one care, many practice in more than one setting to help ensure that women have access to the range of services they need or desire and to allow for specific health considerations. In 2012, about 95 percent of births attended by midwives in the United States were in hospitals.