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What Does a Midwife Do?

Nov. 10, 2020 - Katie McCallum

Midwifery. Thanks to the popular BBC period piece, Call the Midwife, you've probably heard of the term. Or maybe you know someone who raves about her childbirth experience and the midwife who guided and supported her through it.

But, what exactly does a midwife do?

And even if you think you know — and your answer begins and ends with "childbirth" — you may be surprised to learn that midwives do much more than just deliver babies.

Hannah Meurer and Rebecca McKimmey, certified nurse-midwives at Houston Methodist, are here to answer what a midwife does and other common questions you may have about midwifery.

Do midwives deliver babies?

Meurer & McKimmey: To understand the origin of the term midwife, it's helpful to break the word down into two parts. First, "mid" means "with." Next, "wif" means "woman." Put together, "midwife" directly translates to "with woman."

The earliest recorded midwife dates back to 4th century B.C. Originally, the term referred to "with woman" during childbirth — since most women birthed at home, surrounded by family and their midwife, who was considered the expert on birth.

Nowadays, however, the term means so much more beyond childbirth.

What does a midwife do?

Meurer & McKimmey: Certified nurse-midwives are nurses who care for women of all races, ethnicity and backgrounds throughout all stages of life. We partner with women to encourage participation in their individualized care and wellness.

While a midwife is most commonly sought out for prenatal and obstetric care, we offer many other services related to a woman's health, as well.

A midwife is trained to provide:

  • Well woman care
  • Contraception management
  • Lactation consultation
  • Fertility counseling
  • Prenatal and obstetric care
  • Breast exams
  • PAP smears
  • Sexual health care
  • Annual screening tests

The benefits of having a midwife are extensive and include evidence-based care specific to women's health, a trusting relationship, care tailored to the stage of life you're in, and personalized, supportive birthing care if you're pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.

Do I see a midwife before or after pregnancy?

Meurer & McKimmey: The corner store of midwifery is the expert guidance we can offer before, during and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy, we can help a woman with various preconception matters and questions, including contraception management and fertility guidance.

If you become pregnant, we can schedule your ultrasound, pregnancy confirmation visit and new obstetric visit to establish childbirth care with us.

Midwives support women who choose both natural and medicated birth. We also support women who are unsure of their options! We walk a woman through the decision-making process and help her create a birth plan that's right for her and her family.

The benefits of including a midwife in your pregnancy are:

  • Personalized care and a birth plan designed your way
  • A childbirth expert who is supportive of the natural birth process
  • A low-intervention birth
  • Effective communication about your birth plan, as well as anticipatory guidance and informed consent practices

What else should I know about midwifery?

Meurer & McKimmey: Midwives who are a part of the American College of Nurse-Midwives practice the midwifery model of care. The philosophy of this organization is that childbirth is a normal, physiological occurrence, and that a midwife only needs to intervene when necessary or if medically indicated.

As certified midwife-nurses at Houston Methodist, we are unique in that we are part of a hospital-based midwife practice — which we believe offers the best of both worlds.

As a midwife-only practice, it's a guarantee that a midwife will be a part of your prenatal care and birth. We have the expertise and tools necessary to achieve natural childbirth, as well as the emergency resources available should we need them. If complications arise, our supportive physician team will assist with any invention that may be required.

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