No wonder Kate Middleton plans to have her mom in the delivery room with her and Prince William—not only will Carole Middleton be a great support system, but she's also a trained midwife! Kate won't be following the royal tradition of having a baby nurse, either. Instead, the Duchess of Cambridge plans to stay in Berkshire, England, with her parents for at least six weeks after her birth, where she'll have her mom teach her the feeding, bathing, and diaper-changing ropes.
While midwives are routinely used in the UK (and can account for up to 80 percent of the births in most parts of Europe), in the United States obstetricians are still the go-to for delivering babies. But midwives are on the rise in the US, reaching an all-time high, now delivering 12.1 percent of all vaginal births (doctors are always called in to do Cesarean sections). New Mexico has the highest rate in the US with midwives delivering 24 percent of women's births in the state.
So what is a midwife, anyway? Someone who approaches birth more from a woman's perspective than most physicians do, giving both emotional and physical support. Starting in the prenatal stages, they often take more of a holistic approach and put an emphasis on diet and exercise to prepare your body for having a baby.
During labor, they tend to spend more time in the delivery room than most OBs (who are usually nowhere to be found till you're ready to push), and encourage women to try to give birth naturally, using alternative methods of dealing with the pain, including having women walk around, using an exercise ball as a birthing ball, trying different pushing positions to see what's most comfortable, and applying warm compresses to the vaginal area to naturally stretch the skin to help prevent tears.
Where I live in New York City, I feel midwives are really making a comeback. I've known women who have opted to have a midwife for home and hospital births (I always thought you had to have a home birth with midwives—I was wrong!). I took the middle ground and had my OB deliver my baby, but had a doula present for the emotional support. After learning more about midwives, I'm not sure why more women don't use them. Studies show that moms who use midwives have increased access to prenatal care, lower rates of cesarean births and obstetric interventions (like inducing labor), and babies with higher birth weights.
A word of warning, though: Midwives should really only be used in low-risk pregnancies with no complications, and midwives can have varying credentials from Certified Nurse-Midwives all the way down to the lay midwife who has no license to practice, with lots of other levels of licenses in between. So make sure to do your homework before hiring one so you know exactly what skill level and training your midwife has received.
TELL US: Have you or would you use a midwife? Why or why not?
Image of Carole Middleton and Kate Middleton courtesy of Shutterstock.