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Midwifery Makes Its Way Back into Childbirth Conversation

Midwives provide prenatal care as well as care during labor and delivery. (KManzela/Pixabay)
Midwives provide prenatal care as well as care during labor and delivery. (KManzela/Pixabay)
February 22, 2017

SEATTLE – Midwives are becoming a larger part of the picture when it comes to childbirth, growing in popularity for many mothers across the country.

Ushered to the fringes during the 20th century, the most recent data from the CDC shows midwives were the lead care providers for nearly one in 11 births in 2013. The renewed popularity isn't much of a surprise at Group Health, which has offered a midwifery program for a quarter century.

Susan Warwick, Program Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kaiser Permanente Washington, says midwives have the advantage of focusing solely on patients.

"They do a lot of just comfort care and labor support, where physicians tend to be taking care of higher-risk patients," she said. "They might be in and out of the room a bit more because they're managing a larger group of patients in the hospital when they're in labor."

However, midwifery still is mired in myths. Very few deliveries happen at home. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 97 percent of midwife-assisted births take place in a hospital.

Warwick says it's not the antiquated profession some imagine, either. She says they never hesitate to use appropriate technology or medical options to protect the health of the mother and her child.

Midwives also are extensively trained. In Washington state, they must first become licensed as registered nurses, and then earn a master's degree from a state-accredited midwifery training program. They assist in more than just delivery, spending time with families to focus on prenatal care and labor.

At Kaiser Permanente Washington, expecting families can join a midwife-mediated group called CenteringPregnancy where they meet with other expecting families. Warwick says families meet throughout their pregnancies, including postpartum meetings.

"This is really loved by our patients because they form relationships with other members and families and it starts very early with this support in pregnancy," she explained. "And then they sometimes go on to continue to get together after they deliver."

Warwick and her team have received a lot of positive feedback for the CenteringPregnancy program. A survey by the health group found 96 percent of participants preferred receiving prenatal care in a group rather than in one-on-one appointments.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA