Doc Talk: What is a Midwife?

When you become pregnant, there are many decisions that you will have to make - do you want to know the sex of your child, what is your birthing plan, do you want to breastfeed? Another important decision is whether you want a Midwife or an ObGyn to deliver your baby. But you may be asking yourself, what is a Midwife? We spoke to Karrian Benejan, CNM, of Manchester OB-GYN Associates, a Women’s Health Connecticut practice, to learn more about midwifery and to answer your questions.

Can you explain to people who might not know, what is a midwife?

Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are healthcare professionals and registered nurses who have successfully completed an accredited graduate education program and passed a national certification exam. Midwives care for women from adolescence to post-menopause and provide a broad range of gynecological and reproductive health services, preconception care, and family planning services. In addition to this, we are experts in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, as well as newborn care for the first 28 days after birth.

How is a midwife different from an ObGyn?

Both midwives and ObGyns are skilled in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. However, there are a few things that set them apart, specifically in the amount of medical training that they have. An ObGyn is a medical doctor that has completed four years of medical school followed by four years of residency and other specialized training. They often manage high-risk pregnancies independently, perform cesarean sections as well as vacuum-assisted deliveries.

On the other hand, a CNM is educated in nursing and midwifery. They are registered nurses (RNs) who have a bachelor's degree in nursing and have earned a graduate degree in midwifery. They have completed a Midwifery Educational Program accredited by the Accreditation Commission of Midwifery Education, and they pass a national certification examination administered by American Midwifery Certification Board (ACMB). They specialize in well-woman visits, low-risk pregnancies, and the use of minimal intervention in labor and delivery.

How is a midwife different from a doula?

A doula and a midwife differ entirely - a doula is someone without medical training who provides physical and emotional support to women and their partners during pregnancy and childbirth. While a midwife is a medically trained professional who offers a comprehensive array of medical services to women.

What are the benefits of having a midwife?

Midwives provide excellent care at a low health care costs for pregnant women. In addition to this, they are also strong advocates for natural and low interventive births. Many women seeking a "natural" birth experience or a more holistic approach to their ObGyn care will choose to see a midwife.

How do I know if a midwife is right for me?

Knowing if a midwife is right for you is a personal decision. It is a decision that is made based on whether you have a low or high-risk pregnancy. Midwives largely care for low-risk women, however, if you are considered high-risk, you may still have the opportunity to work with a midwife who works closely with other obstetricians, maternal-fetal medicine, and genetic counselors.

Can I have an epidural with a midwife?

Yes! However, this depends on the setting in which you choose to deliver your baby. If you choose to deliver in a birthing center, then an epidural is not available or accessible. On the other hand, if you choose to deliver in a hospital setting then it’s a shared decision made between you and your midwife. Having an epidural in labor depends on your preference and your medical conditions.

How do I choose the right midwife for me?

It is important to choose a midwife that you feel confident with and connected to. You should also choose a midwife who you believe understands your expectations and respects your health care choices. Many women choose to birth with a midwife because of their holistic approach in promoting pregnancy as a normal, natural process, rather than a medical condition. If this is your view and you are hoping for a satisfying birth experience, then a midwife is right for you and your family.

Why did you become a midwife?

I became a midwife because I find joy in working with women. My goal is always to provide a safe environment where women feel cared for, comfortable, informed, and confident in navigating their health care choices. I love equipping and empowering women to enjoy their health, especially the joy of pregnancy and childbirth.

At Women’s Health Connecticut we have over 270 dedicated providers that specialize in the service you need. Learn more about midwifery or find a midwife near you, here.  

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