If you've recently found out you're pregnant, you could be feeling equal parts excitement and anxiety -- particularly when it comes to the birthing process. With friends and acquaintances eager to regale you with over-the-top birth stories as soon as they find out you're pregnant, you may want an experienced advocate like a midwife to help guide you in making the right pregnancy choices for your own physical and mental health. However, if you're hoping for some extra medical assistance during childbirth (from an epidural to a scheduled cesarean section) you might wonder whether you'll be able to receive the same level of support from your midwife as you would from an obstetrician. Read on to learn more about a midwife's role when it comes to medical intervention during childbirth to help you determine whether this is the right choice for you.
What are the differences between a midwife and obstetrician?
Many pregnant women make their first appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist, or OB/GYN. These doctors have received training in both gynecological issues and fetal development, so they can help you from your first appointment up through childbirth and your hospital stay. You may be able to continue seeing your OB/GYN for reproductive care after you give birth, from your annual pelvic exams and pap smears to the placement of an intrauterine device.
Midwives share a similar role as obstetricians when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth but can provide more personalized pregnancy care in a variety of environments -- from an office to your home. While an obstetrician will perform routine exams and provide general advice and answers to questions (if you have time at the end of an appointment), midwives help you identify your pregnancy and childbirth goals and come up with a more individualized plan that can provide you with the best outcome. Many midwives can prescribe medications and order prenatal screening tests (including ultrasounds), so unless you have a high-risk pregnancy that requires more constant monitoring, you should be able to receive the same level of professional care through a midwife as you would with an OB/GYN.
Is having a midwife compatible with medical birth interventions?
Because many women who seek out a midwife do so to enable themselves to have a safe home birth or to get through childbirth without pain medication, the midwifery philosophy is often seen as diametrically opposed to medical intervention. While it's true that midwives won't encourage their patients to seek unnecessary interventions that could potentially put themselves or their child in harm's way, if a specific medication or procedure is deemed necessary during birth, a midwife will help quickly get this treatment to his or her patient. You shouldn't let unfounded fears of not being able to obtain an epidural or receive emergency medical treatment during birth complications keep you from interviewing a midwife -- in fact, midwives thrive at successfully helping their patients through tough situations.
On the other hand, if you're seeking a procedure that poses greater risk than potential benefit for you and your child, a midwife will strongly advise you against this decision and help you consider alternatives. For example, choosing to have an elective c-section at 39 weeks before labor has begun could compromise your child's lungs or lead to distress during the c-section surgery. A midwife will help you walk through the reasons you'd like this procedure -- such as fear of vaginal tearing, breech birth, or a desire to control the timing of the process -- and help allay any concerns or decide on ways to avoid intervention (like manually turning a breech baby after labor has begun). If you're firm in your wish for an elective intervention, your midwife may refer you to an obstetrician who can perform the procedure after advising you of the risks.
If you would like to learn more about the services a midwife can provide, contact a clinic like Women's Healthcare Associates LLC.