The Role of the Midwife
Midwives – Old English for “with woman” – are health care providers who partner with women and families to provide a range of health care services. At Lifespan Physician Group, Obstetrics and Gynecology, the midwives are certified nurse-midwives (CNMs). We are registered nurses with a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery.
CNMs work in a variety of health care settings, including outpatient offices, hospitals, birth centers, and even in the home. While many think a midwife’s role is in the birthing process, CNMs do much more. In addition to prenatal and birth care, we also offer gynecologic care (annual exams and problem visits), sexually transmitted infection testing and primary care. CNMs can prescribe medications. We also provide contraception care, including inserting IUDs and the contraceptive implant. CNMs usually work independently, however, we collaborate with physicians as needed to provide care for higher risk women. In general, CNMs attend births at hospitals, in birth centers and at the woman’s home.
What is the midwife experience?
Midwives view pregnancy and birth as normal and healthy life processes. Midwives specialize in supporting normal birth and using intervention (for example, intravenous lines or inducing labor) only when indicated. We supplement regular health care with education and emotional support. Often, midwives have more time than physicians to spend with families during the labor process, providing labor support and better helping women achieve their goals in childbirth.
Do midwives work with doctors?
Midwives are experts in knowing when normal differentiates from abnormal and we are trained to know when to consult with physicians to provide the safest care for our patients. We are also trained to manage many complications of pregnancy (gestational diabetes and postpartum hemorrhage, for example).
Midwives seek physician assistance when services are required that midwives cannot provide, like cesarean or vacuum birth. Midwives also seek physician consultation when certain medical complications arise. Rarely do patients transfer completely from midwifery care to physician care over the course of the pregnancy. Most of the time, midwives are able to continue to be involved in the care for patients even when a physician’s presence is required.
Do midwives take care of women who may want pain medication in labor?
CNMs care for women who plan both natural childbirth without epidural as well as women who plan epidurals or aren’t sure how they want to cope with labor. Our goal is that you understand your options for childbirth and the risks and benefits of those options. This includes natural coping techniques as well as pain medication. About 40 percent of the women we care for have natural births. We believe achieving natural childbirth often takes support and we are eager to provide it.
Who can receive care from midwives?
Nearly all women can receive care from midwives. The CNMs at Lifespan Physician Group, Obstetrics and Gynecology do not usually care for women with twins or who start pregnancy with certain medical conditions like Type 1 diabetes.
What do I do if I am interested in midwifery care?
You can schedule a consult with one of the midwives in our group. If you are already a patient at Lifespan Physician Group, Obstetrics and Gynecology, meeting with a midwife is easy to do at one of your regular prenatal or office visits. You can also choose to schedule your annual checkups with a midwife at any time. You always have the choice to remain with the midwifery service or use the physician service instead. Insurance coverage is usually the same for midwives and physicians.
We also host “Meet the Midwives” open houses throughout the year for current patients and women and families who are exploring their maternity care options. Our next open house will be on February 28 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., at 148 West River St., Suite 5A in Providence. Please call 401-606-3000 for more information.
We would enjoy meeting you and explaining more about how we can be your health care provider! You can also learn more about the CNMs with Lifespan Physician Group, Obstetrics and Gynecology here.
About the Author:
Nicole Heig, CNM
Nicole Heig, C.N.M. is a certified nurse-midwife practicing with Lifespan Physician Group, Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her areas of interest include contraception and childbirth education. In addition to her labor support experience, Nicole has also worked as a perinatal educator and as a peer counselor for victims of sexual assault. She is a member of the American College of Nurse Midwives.