The Pros of Having a Midwife
2. Using a midwife is just as safe as using a doctor. Studies show that moms who use midwives have increased access to prenatal care, lower rates of cesarean births and obstetric interventions, and babies with higher birth weights. In addition, even home births for low-risk pregnancies using certified professional midwives are just as safe as low-risk hospital births, according to a study published in 2005 in the British Medical Journal. In Japan, Sweden, and the Netherlands, where midwives deliver almost all babies, infant mortality rates are much lower than in the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
3. Midwives focus on physical and emotional support. A midwife makes sense for any woman who has a low-risk pregnancy, doesn't have serious health problems, and wants to be more in charge of her labor and delivery. Midwife literally means "with woman," and that's her greatest strength -- a nurturing, woman-centered approach. "My midwife listened to me and respected my input," says Eireann Kiley of North Adams, Massachusetts. "She really took the time to get to know me and my husband." Midwives are likely to spend more time with you than most doctors and offer both emotional and physical support during prenatal visits, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. "Midwives are especially good at helping new moms with breastfeeding, handling anxieties, and improving nutrition," says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, in Derby, Connecticut.
4. Midwives favor less invasive birth practices. Though midwives will help administer pain medication if a mom wants it, they tend to favor natural methods to ease the pain of labor and delivery. For example, they might give a mom a deep massage or encourage her to use an exercise ball to feel more comfortable, a warm compress to help the area stretch naturally and avoid tearing, or even a Jacuzzi to relax. These techniques can prevent episiotomies (the cutting of tissue to widen the birth canal) and help nature take its course, says Shafia Monroe, founder of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, in Portland, Oregon. In fact, recent national studies show that the cesarean-section rate for midwives is 11.6 percent, one third that of the national rate. Midwives also have more successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) rates than the national averages. All this means that women who choose midwives are more likely to have a natural vaginal birth and to recuperate faster.