By Erika Obert
There can be many barriers to quality, affordable health care for pregnant women. There’s a secret, however, in the natural birthing community: Midwives are as safe as obstetricians for low-risk women, offer a high level of satisfaction and provide a cost-effective option.
In the present health care environment, a growing number of families are receiving maternity care from a midwife. For often less than their insurance deductible, prospective parents receive from a midwife the same individualized trust-based care that their grandparents received.
Midwives have helped pregnant women and families through the birth experience for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1996 that Citizens for Midwifery, a non-profit grassroots organization, created a formal Midwives Model of Care publication that formalized the model that midwives use to provide care before, during and after birth experiences. The woman-centric model of care emphasizes that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes, and that pregnant women are active participants and capable decision-makers in their health care.
The model stipulates that midwives are skilled care providers who perform their work with integrity and limit the scope of their work to low-risk pregnancy. Regular prenatal appointments allow opportunities for appropriate screenings and monitoringof the health of mother and baby.
A competent midwife will answer questions honestly, offer options for maintaining health and wellness, research any question she cannot answer and provide referrals to other health providers when appropriate.
The midwife has an obligation to educate the mother in such away that her options for care arefully understood. Parents have the opportunity to research options, ask questions and challenge the midwife’s information before making a choice about the prenatal and postnatal care they choose to receive. The mother makes decisions from a place of knowledge and trust in herself, as opposed to trust in a provider. While this places more responsibility on the mother, with greater responsibility comes greater freedom.
Belief in the woman’s ability to birth sets the model of care for midwives apart from the medical model. The model for midwives operates from the philosophy that the woman and her birth process is healthy until proven differently by clinical data. Preparation of the family forthe demanding work of labor occurs throughout the course of prenatal care. Midwives provide education regarding prenatal nutrition, regular exercise, mental and spiritual preparation and continuous support from the birth-team during labor. While trained midwives are prepared to handle most birth complications and carry with them the emergency equipment to care for mother and baby, the vast majority of low-risk women successfully birth with very few interventions.
The sparing use of interventions and technology also sets the midwifery model apart from the medical model. Skilled midwives recognize that technology is a valuable tool, do not eschew the use of technology and promptly refer a mother to a doctor when any need arises. A midwife should have a cooperative relationship with a doctor, a list of local resources and be familiar with local hospitals.
The midwives model is safe and cost-effective for low-risk pregnancies. It is a well-deserved investment in women, babies and families, and it supports the building of strong parents who in turn create strong families.
Erika Obert, LM, CPM, is the founder of Family Tree Midwifery, a San Antonio-based maternity care practice. From in-home midwifery care to expert lactation support, Family Tree offers full spectrum woman-centered care, allowing you to be a partner in your health care. More information is available at www.ftmidwifery.com. Contact Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-221-8597.