This post is written by Erica Moss, the community manager for the online Masters in Nursing degree program at Georgetown University, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse midwife programs. She’s also passionate about photography and meeting new people.
Midwifery is an often misunderstood profession that encompasses far more than assisting with childbirth. The history of the midwife stretches back through centuries and has involved periods of rapid change as well as controversy.
The role of the midwife in society has often been recognized as vital, and midwives even received priority passage to the colony of Massachusetts. At other times, midwives have been marginalized or persecuted because of their role in providing reproductive health care for women and/or because they have approached women’s health care differently than other facets of the medical establishment. Today’s midwives are certified health professionals who provide comprehensive care for women.
Midwifery is a professional designation in the United States and requires certification from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). All midwives must complete an educational program and pass the same national certification exam. However, two classifications of midwife exist: Certified Nurse-Midwives are registered nurses who have also earned midwifery certification, which allows them to practice as midwives in all 50 states; Certified Midwives come from many different educational and professional backgrounds related to health care, and must pass the same certification exam as CNMS. Certified midwives can currently practice only in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware and Missouri.
The Midwife’s Role in Childbirth
Midwives are most widely known for their role in supporting and caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, as well as caring for infants during the first 28 days of life. Midwives differ from obstetricians in their non-interventionist approach to
childbirth, which primarily consists of waiting, observing, supporting and coaching women through the process. Midwives receive training in handling many complications that may occur during pregnancy and labor in a non-invasive manner. A midwife may also consult with or provide care in tandem with an obstetrician, depending on circumstance, the patient’s wishes and medical factors.
The Midwife’s Roles Beyond Child Birth
Though the popular imagination tends to depict midwives as appearing at a woman’s side only during the final moments of pregnancy, midwives often provide general care for women from adolescence through advanced age. Midwives perform physical examinations, prescribe medications and provide gynecological care, as well as act in educational and therapeutic roles. Philosophically, midwives tend to approach health care from a woman-centered perspective, emphasizing female empowerment and human rights, as well as prioritizing the construction of a healing and communicative patient-caregiver relationship. Midwives may also treat men for sexually-transmitted infections.
More than 5,000 Certified Nurse-Midwives currently practice in the United States. Though the profession has evolved considerably since the days when midwives practiced folk medicine and were sometimes hunted as witches, what has remained constant is the principle of a healing human presence in the lives of women. In a medical establishment, which is increasingly technological and bureaucratic, as well as historically male-dominated, midwives play a vital role in ensuring that women have access to comprehensive, non-invasive general and reproductive health care. The medical education that midwives receive and the rigorous standards of certification they must maintain both support this profound perspective on women’s health.
Comments are closed.