midwifery

Women's Health | 4 months ago

Midwifery: Empowering Women in Their Healthcare Decisions

Certified nurse midwives have more in common with OB/GYN doctors than you might think. See what one Atrium Health midwife has to say about midwifery, whole-woman health and empowering women in their healthcare decisions. 

“Would you like to see a midwife?”

If you’ve ever been asked this question when scheduling an OB/GYN appointment, you might not have known how to respond – or even what a midwife is. 

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has received, at a minimum, a master’s degree in nursing. In addition to advanced degrees and licenses, CNMs almost always have certifications in areas specific to women’s care, like ultrasonography.

Jennifer Osborne, a certified nurse midwife at Atrium Health’s Union OB/GYN - Waxhaw, encourages all women to make an appointment with a midwife at least once, if just to see what this model of care is all about. “It may not be the model of care for you, and that’s okay,” she says. “Or you may find that your yearly well-woman visits are even better because it means a visit with your favorite midwife.”

Caring for the whole woman

For many women, the word ‘midwife’ might evoke images of earthy remedies and home births. But the truth is, certified nurse midwives are more like OB/GYNs than you might think.

In addition to working side-by-side with OB/GYNs, CNMs even offer many of the same services as these doctors, helping care for women and their families at every stage of life. They can perform your yearly well-woman exams and Pap smears. They can prescribe birth control pills and insert IUDs. And yes, they can even deliver your baby. 

Whereas OB/GYNs specialize in women’s physical health, CNMs take a more holistic approach to women’s care – or whole-woman care, as Osborne calls it. “As midwives, we like to make sure emotional wellness is addressed in addition to physical wellness,” she says. 

Ultimately, the relationship a woman has with her midwife is just as important as the one she has with her doctor. And just like with a doctor, when women feel comfortable voicing concerns, asking questions and learning their options, they can make more empowered decisions when it comes to their health. 

This might be why one of the biggest benefits of midwifery, according to Osborne, is the lasting, personal relationship a patient can establish with her midwife.

Beyond home births

Midwives tend to see childbirth in a more natural light, taking the approach that delivery is something that will happen in its own time. This can potentially mean more time spent in labor and less medical interventions, including epidurals and electronic monitoring.

But less medical interventions doesn’t mean less safe, and midwives are highly trained in all aspects of women’s health, including common pregnancy complications and postpartum care. Not only that, but they’re almost always closely connected to a care network of both medical and holistic providers.

Oh, and about home births? They’re less common than you might think. In addition to working in OB/GYN offices, Atrium Health’s certified nurse midwives only deliver at hospitals – alongside doctors and full care teams. Whether it’s quiet and lowkey, or loud with lots of family, these midwives are focused on giving each woman the birth experience she wants, in the safest, most comfortable environment. 

“The birth experience is yours, and it’s one you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” says Osborne. “You deserve for it to be exactly as you want.”

Having the best of both worlds

For healthy women and routine pregnancies, choosing between an OB/GYN doctor and a midwife isn’t an either-or decision. You can – and perhaps even should – have the best of both worlds. 

“When doctors and midwives work together, women have the opportunity to get an incredible level of care that each and every person deserves,” says Osborne. 

Doctors and midwives are invaluable complements for any care team, especially during pregnancy. From natural childbirth to emergency surgery to everything in between, many women work with both to get the best care possible. 

It’s not just a career – it’s a calling

For Osborne, midwifery is more than a career; it’s a calling. 

“As cliché as it sounds, I’ve always known this was what I wanted to be when I grew up,” says Osborne, who previously spent 10 years as a labor and delivery nurse. “Each time I introduce someone new to midwifery, it makes the journey worth it – and welcoming new babies to the world doesn’t hurt, either!”

Beyond the education, certifications and many, many years of clinical experience, midwives like Osborne bring something else to the job: a passion for helping women feel safe, empowered and in charge of their healthcare decisions.