May is Women’s Health Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to learn about a model of care that can benefit women at all stages of their lives!
Midwifery translates to “with woman,” and it’s a fitting description of how our Certified Nurse Midwives can empower women to improve their health through personalized gynecologic care, prenatal care, and labor & delivery support.
Our midwifery team sees patients of all ages, and Regional One Health is the only hospital in Memphis where expectant moms can deliver with the support of a Certified Nurse Midwife.
Midwives have a long history of improving access to health care in the communities they serve, and Regional One Health’s Certified Nurse Midwives are passionate about continuing that legacy for families in the Mid-South.
“I see us as a point of access and a way to elevate communities overall. When you have greater access to care, you have healthier people,” said Amanda Williams, CNM.
Breia Loft, CNM, director of midwifery services, said the midwifery model empowers patients to improve their health and the health of their family. “It’s a team effort between the midwife and the patient,” she said. “We encourage patients to be active participants in their care.”
Loft and Williams recently answered some of the top questions they hear about midwifery.
Is midwifery only for pregnancy?
Midwifery is an excellent option for pregnancy and childbirth care, and Regional One Health is the only hospital in Memphis where expectant moms can deliver with the support of a Certified Nurse Midwife. But there’s much more to midwifery!
“We do basically everything an OB/GYN does, except for surgery,” Loft said. “We provide annual well-woman exams, pre-conception counseling, and treatment for STIs and gynecologic problems. We can help with birth control counseling, as well as insertion and prescriptions.”
Certified Nurse Midwives care for patients of all ages. They are an excellent option for teens thanks to their focus on education and supportive care, and their relationship-building mission helps women as they transition to menopause.
Are midwives only for home births, or births without medication?
Regional One Health’s Certified Nurse Midwives support hospital births, not home births. They attend over 40 births per month at our Labor & Delivery Center.
As for pain relief, it’s up to the patient! Certified Nurse Midwives can prescribe epidurals and other pain medication, as well as offering alternative pain relief like birthing balls and trying different labor positions: “Midwifery is a low-intervention model of care, but that doesn’t mean patients can’t have pain medication,” Loft said. “It’s your choice!”
The focus of midwifery is to honor and support the patient’s choices while putting the safety of the mom and baby first. “The patient’s experience is the reason we do this,” Williams said. “We want you to feel centered in your care.”
Evidence shows midwifery has many positive impacts for moms and babies, including decreased use of unnecessary intervention, lower C-section rates, more vaginal births after C-section, fewer episiotomies, fewer low birth weight and pre-term babies, and increased breastfeeding rates.
Is midwifery as safe as seeing an OB/GYN?
Certified Nurse Midwives are highly trained advanced practitioners with a master’s or doctorate in nursing focusing on midwifery. They are licensed by the state in which they practice and certified through the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. They must maintain licensing and certification through rigorous education and testing standards.
They follow an evidence-based scope of care, and the exams and testing they provide for well-woman and prenatal care are the same as the guidelines followed by OB/GYNs.
“If something is outside our scope of care, such as surgery, we bring in a physician,” Loft said.
Do they have a good relationship with physicians?
“We love our doctors and we work very closely with them. It’s a team effort,” Loft said.
At Regional One Health, OB/GYN physicians and Certified Nurse Midwives work side-by-side to care for patients. Communication is seamless, and while the models of care are different, both have the same focus – improving the health of women and babies.
“Our physicians do a really good job of promoting shared decision-making and treating patients as individuals, not a number,” Williams said. “I absolutely recommend them all the time.”
What is different about midwifery care?
Nurse midwives typically have more time per appointment, so they focus on education and support. “We take the time to listen and validate, and that makes a huge difference,” Loft said. “We help the patients make decisions rather than telling them what needs to be done. We’re strong proponents of providing evidence based advice and supporting patients in their decisions.”
“We care for the whole person,” Williams added. “Providing holistic care and addressing social determinants of health – taking care of a woman’s life in its entirety – makes a difference.”
Certified Nurse Midwives also look at pregnancy through a different lens. “The midwifery model is based on the philosophy that pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy physiologic processes, and we try to protect that fact,” Loft said.