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Research shows midwives provide positive outcomes for women's health

October 04, 2017
national midwifery week

National Midwifery Week is October 1-7, 2017

Sharon Holley, chief of Baystate Health's midwifery division, answers questions about the important role midwives play in the lives of women and families.

What are midwives?

Midwives are devoted to addressing the health needs of women throughout life, many offering care from puberty through – and beyond – menopause. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Midwives (CMs) are educated at the masters or doctoral level, and must pass a national certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

Midwives are devoted to addressing the health needs of women throughout life, many offering care from puberty through – and beyond – menopause. Midwives help prepare women for pregnancy, care for them through labor and birth, and support them as they move into parenthood. Some even provide care for newborn babies during the first 28 days of life. Midwives are also educated to manage gynecology needs and provide general health care services.

What role do midwives play at Baystate Health?

Midwives attend 25% of all births at Baystate Medical Center, and 74% at Baystate Franklin Medical Center – where midwives deliver close to 100% of the vaginal births each year.

Baystate Health midwives care for pregnant women, assist women giving birth, provide family planning and birth control, gynecological care, and primary care services. Midwives trained as CNMs are considered independent providers who work in collaboration with their physician colleagues and other health care professionals. The CNMs at Baystate work in a variety of settings with outpatient and in-hospital services such as our Women’s Evaluation and Treatment Unit and labor & delivery.

What are some of the reasons patients requests a midwife?

Patients often choose midwives because we have a holistic approach to care. Midwives focus on normal prenatal care, labor and birth. This approach is also carried over to the other services midwives provide. Midwives are trained with a philosophy of working in partnership with women, and have a strong belief in pregnancy, birth, and changes through the life cycle as normal life events.

Working in the context of the medical center, midwives can also collaborate with physicians to care for women with some pregnancy-related problems. This collaboration offers patients optimal care and safety.

Pregnancy is often the first time many women meet midwives. But midwifery care can continue throughout their lives, even through menopause.

Research shows that midwives provide better outcomes for women, and lower health care costs.

Do patients ask you to do home deliveries?

People often assume midwives only do home births. Nationally, 95% of births attended by CNMs are done in hospital settings, 3% in freestanding birth centers, and 2% in homes (American College of Nurse-Midwives Birth Statistics). Baystate does not offer home birth services at this time.

The TV program "Call the Midwife" has drawn attention to midwives. What else has prompted interest?

“Call the Midwife” has prompted more public interest in midwifery. However, births in the U.S. attended by CNMs have been increasing over the last decade, and as of 2014 just over 12% of all vaginal births were attended by midwives.

How does midwifery care affect cesarean section rates?

While the U.S. cesarean section rate was at 30% as of 2015, the rate for midwives is much lower and hovers around 14-15% nationally most years. A recent Cochrane review noted that midwifery care should be an option for most women, and the World Health Organization says there could be large improvements in maternal outcomes in pregnancy and birth if women had midwifery care options.

Learn more about midwifery care at Baystate Health.