More and more women are seeking the midwifery approach to care ::

HERSHEY, PA (EYT) – More and more mothers in the US are having perfectly healthy babies in a safe environment, but without what was once considered a key factor – the doctor.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 women chose to have a home birth in 2020, a 19% increase from 2019. Others give birth in hospitals but choose procedures that allow them to move around during labor rather than being tied to a hospital bed.

In both cases, women turn to midwives. Like obstetricians, midwives help mothers through pregnancy, childbirth and what comes after. But midwives can help mothers give birth in places other than a hospital room and use techniques different from those offered by an OB/GYN. In many cases, obstetricians and midwives work hand in hand.

What exactly does a midwife do?

Different types of midwives provide different levels of care to women and babies. Certified midwives like Katie Reynoldsone of five who both work at Penn State Health Obstetrics and Gynecology at Camphill and at Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center, are registered nurses with master’s degrees in midwifery. They have received special certifications and training. They provide personalized care during pregnancy and childbirth, care for women and are authorized to prescribe a wide range of medications, including pain relief during labor and childbirth.

“One of the really cool and fun parts of being a midwife is that we get to care for women throughout their lives: as they hit puberty, through their early adult years, through pregnancy, after childbirth and into menopause,” said Reynolds. “We are able to build lifelong relationships and trust with our patients.”

Does choosing a midwife mean I’m deciding against an OB/GYN?

no Reynolds has found the physician support in her practice to be a huge factor in her success.

“Our doctors respect our training and background very much. They speak very well of us to patients,” she said. “They’re there when we need them, but otherwise let’s do the show. You don’t find that everywhere.”

In some practices, midwives work under the supervision of a doctor, not in collaboration with him. In other cases, a patient with a high-risk condition may “take the risk of leaving midwifery care” and be referred to a doctor. That is not the case at Penn State Health Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“We consult the doctors in our practice when someone has an illness that we don’t think is within our area. They give recommendations. That doesn’t mean we can’t take care of them,” Reynolds said. “We have such a good working relationship with our doctors that we are able to continue to care for our patients during delivery and after delivery.”

Why work with a midwife in the hospital?

Working with a midwife in a hospital gives patients the opportunity to have a natural, physiological, hands-free birth in an environment where resources are scarce in the event of an emergency.

“In the home setting, the resources for what you can provide for the patient are more limited, especially if they have medical issues or complications,” Reynolds said, adding that it’s not uncommon for a home birth midwife to see one Patients misplaced them during labor. “It could be a complication at home, or a patient could decide they want better pain control. Having us as a resource allows patients to continue receiving care from the midwife even when they transfer to the hospital.”

What is the difference in the birth experience with a midwife?

Many patients who see midwives for pregnancy and childbirth care are looking for an alternative to a doctor’s more medicalized approach, which involves constant monitoring of the baby and keeping patients in bed.

“Midwives specialize in the physiological birth that our body knows how to perform. We encourage movement during the work process by walking around the unit, changing positions and taking a shower,” Reynolds said. “We tend to keep our fingers crossed and let nature take its course.”

Although physician support is clearly critical to her success, Reynolds believes that the long-term appeal of midwifery care lies with the nurses.

“We are used to standing by the bed and building a relationship with the patient. As a nurse you spend a lot of time with and caring for patients. We carry that with us when we become midwives, which makes a big difference in our positive outcomes,” she said. “By listening to the patient and making time for them, we really try to build a good working relationship and understand where our patients are coming from.”

That Medical minute is a weekly health news feature produced by Penn State Health. The articles incorporate the expertise of educators, physicians and staff and are designed to provide timely, relevant health information of interest to a wide audience.

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