Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Choosing A Care Provider

When choosing a primary care provider, we don't ordinarily rush to hire a surgeon to handle our every need. A sneeze does not indicate a necessity for rhinoplasty, nor does a headache always require brain surgery. So why then is it that women are rushing into the arms of surgeons to give birth? Obstetricians are surgeons who go to medical school to specialize in surgical techniques for labors and deliveries gone wrong. It wasn't until the late 19th century that the practice of routine intervention became commonplace, more than likely due to the advent of antiseptics, antibiotics, and anesthesia. Before the popularization of obstetrics, midwives cared for most pregnant women during labor and delivery. Thousands of years of history and experience refined their skills and abilities into what we now know as modern midwifery. The scope of midwifery covers much of the natural processes of pregnancy and childbirth, yielding only to complications in which medical intervention becomes necessary and life saving. Midwives are trained to minimize interventions and respect the natural birth process, which yields better outcomes for mothers and babies.

Midwives practice evidence-based care. "Evidence-based" means using results of the best research about the safety and effectiveness of specific tests, treatments, and other interventions to help guide maternity care decisions. You may be surprised to learn that most maternity care in the United States is NOT evidence-based. Midwives receive training in labor and delivery just as an obstetrician does; however, the midwife is more akin to your primary care physician who refers to a specialist – for complications outside of the general practice scope. In some states, including Florida, midwives receive licensure as well. While we are more likely to hear about cases in which bad outcome are associated with midwife-attended births, those situations most certainly do not represent the majority of such births. The National Birth Center Study (Rooks et al., 1989) found that birth centers were a safe alternative to hospitals for women at low-risk of birth outcomes, and used fewer resources than hospitals did. A systematic review of midwife-led birth centers reached the same conclusion (Walsh & Downe, 2004). Similarly, a recent study of more than 5000 women intending to birth at home attended by Certified Professional Midwives found a similar rate of intrapartum and neonatal mortality rates as in low risk hospital births, but with lower medical intervention rates (Johnson & Daviss, 2005).

Midwife means "with woman." Midwives provide personalized care that respects individual and cultural differences. With a midwife, you become an active partner in your care working with your midwife to decide the course of your pregnancy and birth. Whether you are a first-time mom or a fifth-time mom, a new baby will change your life in wonderful and unpredictable ways. The outcome of a birth is more than a healthy mom and baby – it’s a family. Midwives treat you as a whole person while addressing your physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Remember midwives when you think of pregnancy and childbirth. Healthy, low-risk women have the option of hiring a midwife to care for them during pregnancy. Women have the right to choose what type of practitioner will provide their prenatal care.

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