Midwives are highly qualified independent health care providers. Literally meaning “with women,” midwives have been facilitating natural childbirth and caring for mothers and expecting mothers for thousands of years. Midwifery is believed to be an older profession than doctoring and nursing, and is practiced throughout the world.
In Western Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, doctors (who were almost exclusively male during this period) led misinformation campaigns to discredit midwifery (almost exclusively made up of women), which resulted in accusations of witchcraft and the rise of social stigmas. Doctor-led birthing became the norm among upper-class women, and spread over time as doctors become more financially accessible to middle- and lower-class people.
In recent decades, more families seeking woman-centered care and unmedicated deliveries has led to a resurgence of midwifing’s popularity. Television shows like PBS’s “Call the Midwife,” set in a poor London suburb of 1950s England, is also helping to dispel misconceptions and normalize the midwife’s place in modern birthing. The work of midwives elsewhere in the world has continued uninterrupted and unhindered, offering rich wisdom and experience on our increasingly collaborative world.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and are interested in enlisting the services of a midwife, you should first decide if you want to give birth in a hospital, at home, or in a birthing center. Many pregnant people, especially those who have given birth to one healthy child already, prefer the privacy of home births or birthing centers, to which midwifery is particularly suited. However, their extensive training and experience also make midwives valuable members of hospital labor and delivery teams.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy and/or if your doctor anticipates complications, you should choose a hospital setting to give birth, as you will have more convenient access to professionals who specialize in addressing such complications. Our practice partners with Midwives of Macon, a hospital-birth- based practice which serves low-risk patients seeking unmedicated deliveries.
If looking for a midwife for a home or birthing center delivery, research local midwifery organizations to help you find midwives who might be available to attend to your birth. A midwife will always list their certification credentials, including Certified Midwife (CM), Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), and Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). National certification is offered through the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the North American Registry of Midwives. Before seeking certification, the equivalent of a graduate degree in midwifery, midwives often complete an extensive apprenticeship with an experienced midwife. All certified midwives are trained to care for the reproductive health of adolescences through menopausal people, in addition to pregnancy and birth-related care. This means they can provide pelvic exams, pap smears, breast exams, and a host of other routine women’s wellness services. Midwifery organizations often provide additional support to pregnant and postpartum people through childbirth classes, conduct sonograms, lactation consultations, postpartum depression seminars, pelvic floor consultations, and more. If a problem ever arises which is outside the scope of a midwife’s services, they will refer their patients to appropriate medical professionals and services.