Is Using a Midwife a Mistake?
When it comes to the birth of your baby, you have the choice either to use an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) in a traditional hospital setting or to enlist the help of a midwife to assist you with delivery from the comfort of your home. The sterile nature of a hospital may not be your cup of tea, but you may have doubts about whether or not a midwife can help you through the many needs of your delivery — especially if you’re at risk for potential complications. If you’re unclear about which is the best choice for your birth, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about choosing between a midwife and an OBGYN to assist with your delivery.
Choosing Hospital Delivery Versus Midwife Birth
For thousands of years, babies were born at home. In fact, today’s practice of giving birth in a hospital under the care of a medical doctor only began in the twentieth century, with the advent of using anesthesia during labor.
However, the trend has begun to come full circle. An increasing number of expectant mothers are choosing a more natural birthing experience — either at home or in a birthing center — under the care and supervision of a certified nurse-midwife (CNM). In fact, although midwife-assisted births account for only 8% of US deliveries, more than two-thirds of births in the UK and other countries involve a midwife.
Of course, doctors and midwives have the same goal: to keep the mother healthy and deliver a healthy baby. Choosing between the two is an entirely personal decision, and neither one is wrong. All that matters is what feels safest and most comfortable for you. With that said, here are the differences between giving birth with the assistance of a midwife versus delivering with an OBGYN.
Benefits of Midwives and OBGYNs
As a mother-to-be, your decisions regarding the care you receive leading up to and during the birth all depend on where you want to give birth. While an OBGYN delivers babies only at a hospital or its adjacent birthing center, a midwife can deliver babies at home or in a birthing center or hospital. Midwifery practices often have a relationship with an OBGYN should a situation (such as an emergency C-section) arise that is beyond their skill set. The benefits of using each are listed below.
- Extensive education, training and certification. Some people may doubt the education and training of a midwife, believing them to be anti-Western medicine and not much more than a hand to hold during delivery — but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
CNMs are highly trained health professionals who provide prenatal care, assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum care. In fact, they work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), which means they can prescribe medications and assume more medical responsibilities than a registered nurse. A certified nurse-midwife must earn advanced practice licensure at the state level, along with nurse midwife certification by the American Midwifery Certification Board before they can begin practicing. Because these credentials require graduate-level schooling, CNMs must also earn either a master’s or doctoral degree.
- More focused attention. Midwives usually offer more one-on-one care during labor and delivery, and have a more hands-on approach at all stages of the pregnancy. This is also reflective of the midwife-patient relationship throughout the pregnancy and birth. Whereas doctors are trained to take a clinical tone with patients, a midwife tends to develop a personal relationship with the patient, which may make the experience more relaxed for mothers-to-be.
- Are you at high risk? Midwives are often not qualified to manage high-risk pregnancies or complications that may occur during childbirth, such as the need for an emergency C-section. Should a complication arise during birth, you will be transferred to a hospital for emergency care with a physician whom you’re most likely meeting for the first time. High-risk mothers often opt for an OBGYN over a midwife for this reason.
- Natural childbirth may not be your preferred method of delivery. Midwives can administer epidurals and labor-inducing drugs. However, because their focus is on a natural experience, they are less likely to do so than doctors.
- Best for complicated births. Unlike midwives, an obstetrician is able to offer induction of labor, IV antibiotics and emergency C-sections. This makes an OBGYN the preferred choice for managing multiple births (twins, triplets), women with prior C-sections, breech births, women with prior stillbirths or other pregnancy-related complications, and women with other comorbid medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
If you have legal questions about the medical care you received from an OBGYN or other practitioner, we’re here to help you understand your rights and legal options. Backed by decades of combined medical and legal experience, the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have helped families across the US with their birth injury claims. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation, and we’ll help you decide your next best steps.