Taking care of yourself or your loved one during a pregnancy is a prime concern. Not only is the mother’s health and well-being at stake, but the baby’s life and health are vital as well. Enlisting the services of competent, professional healthcare staff to monitor, advise and assist throughout all stages of pregnancy can make a major difference in a variety of key factors, including infant mortality likelihood, birth weight and the possibility of a baby being delivered at full term.
Historically, many people were born at home and their mothers took advantage of midwifes to assist in the process. Midwifery has a long and storied history throughout the world and remained common even in places like the United States throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
Ultimately, modern medical advancements led to more people choosing to give birth in hospitals rather than at home. However, recent trends are now showing a reversal in this dynamic: midwifery is once again becoming more popular.
To clear the air, let’s delve into the questions you have about midwifery.
Do Midwives Require Training and Certification?
While it may have been a profession that did not require formal education and certification in the past, practicing midwives have to obtain a substantial amount of training to provide services legally and safely.
First and foremost, midwives must complete certified nurse midwifery programs, which are often as lengthy and complex as many bachelor degree programs. In fact, bachelor and doctor degrees in nursing for midwifery now exist from a variety of top-tier, accredited universities. There are in-person and online certified nurse midwifery programs to help prospective caregivers become aptly trained in all matters related to the profession.
Additionally, there are often other criteria that midwives must meet in order to operate that can vary by state. National certification programs exist that may be provided via certified nurse midwifery programs, including certifications that focus on certified midwives (CM) and certified professional midwives (CPM). However, licensing laws do vary considerably, and in some cases, select midwives cannot practice under select circumstances.
Do Midwives Provide Other Services Beyond Pregnancy?
Many people think of midwives as being there at the moment of a child’s birth, coaching the mother through the pains of delivery. However, midwives absolutely do provide much more in terms of services to their patients. While each midwife’s offerings can vary, there are many different services before, during and after pregnancy that midwifery can offer.
Midwives have often acted as front-line healthcare workers in isolated and low-income communities for women, providing services comparable to that of a gynecologist. Midwives can also assist mothers in learning how to breastfeed properly, showing how to change diapers and bathe newborn infants, and even helping to manage pain relief post-pregnancy.
During pregnancy, midwives will help by checking on the baby’s growth, providing the mother with instructional guidelines and information to improve the odds of a healthy delivery, and even assisting with navigating the complexities of hospital and doctor appointments.
Can Men Become Midwives?
Virtually everybody thinks about midwifery is a profession exclusively for women. With the word “wife” in the name, it’s hard to blame them! The delicate and unique nature of the profession has historically meant that women pursued the profession while men did not. However, there are no laws or restrictions on men serving as midwifes – and more are choosing to do so with each passing year!
The number of male midwives in the US is still relatively small: the number ranges from 1 in 150 to 1 in 30, depending on the exact state (nationally, close to two percent of midwives are men). However, there is no reason that men cannot pursue a career in midwifery in today’s modern world.
Does Midwifery Focus on Natural Birthing Processes?
Historically, midwifery revolved around home delivery. This was during an era where the number of available painkillers and artificial components of delivery (such as inducing labor) were minimal to non-existent. Given that the world has changed considerably over the past few decades, how are midwifes now providing services?
Largely, the extent of natural birthing techniques is determined by a combination of the venue and the wishes of the mother. Home birth may limit the use of select techniques that can be performed in a hospital. Many mothers who wish to have a home birth also insist upon a natural birth, meaning these two factors still go hand-in-hand in many circumstances.
However, midwives also work in hospitals and delivery rooms. These midwives again will respect the wishes of the mother, but usually, their services are focused on aiding the mother throughout the delivery process and using the latest techniques to ensure a safe, quick, and successful birth.
Where Can Students Train to Become Midwives?
The wide variety of skills that midwives must learn in order to obtain certification, licensing, and employment can be daunting. However, there are many venues through which students can prepare for these realities.
In the US alone, there are currently around 40 dedicated midwife degree programs. However, the popularity of nurse-midwifery has led to hundreds of additional options through certified nurse-midwifery programs. Students can ultimately choose to enroll in traditional physical classes or embrace online instruction if no local classes are available.
What is important is to enroll in a midwife program that is accredited.
What Are Some Other Important Facts About Midwifery?
There are many interesting and crucial facts about the midwife profession that shed light on the vital role they fill in society.
Let’s start with the basics: what percentage of births are attended by midwives? In the US, this number is approximately 10 percent (and growing). In other countries like the UK, the majority of births are attended by midwives.
Ample research on the matter shows that mothers who utilize midwife services before, during, and after giving birth ultimately have healthier children.
There is a huge discrepancy along racial lines in midwifery. While many women of color served as midwives several decades ago when the profession was more common, over 90 percent of midwives today are Caucasian.
As the midwife once again becomes more popular in healthcare, knowing how this profession interacts with mothers and children alike is critical. Whether you are interested in pursuing a career as a midwife or are looking for information before enlisting their services, you now know a great deal more about how and what midwives bring to the proverbial table.