Study Shows Midwives Bring Many Benefits to Safer Birth Outcomes
In much of the world, midwives play a large role in helping mothers bring babies into the world. Even Kate Middleton has used a midwife to help her bring her own little princess into the world. Throughout other parts of Europe, midwives oversee many low-risk births, leaving obstetricians to handle to most high-risk cases. Surprisingly, in countries like Sweden, Norway, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Canada where midwives are used routinely, rates of maternal and infant mortality are significantly lower than those in the United States where they attend only about 10% of births, sometimes with limited roles.
The extent to which midwives can legally participate in maternal care and births varies widely from state to state. For example, in Washington they do not need to be licensed nurses and often work closely with obstetricians. On the other hand, in North Carolina a midwife must also be a registered nurse and needs a physician to sign-off on their application to practice. A new study shows that in states where midwives are able to more fully participate in care outcomes are better for both mothers and babies. States like Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon that allow midwives to legally do more have far better outcomes than states like Alabama, Ohio, and Mississippi that restrict their role. In states that mandate restrictive roles for midwives, outcomes are worse.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the use of a midwife is associated with a decreased cesarean rate, decreased rates of induced labor, decreased infant mortality rates, decreased premature births, higher rates of breastfeeding, and lower costs. A close look at the data bears out these benefits.
Before deciding whether to use a midwife or obstetrician to care for your throughout your pregnancy:
- Check the laws in your state to see what midwives are and are not legally able to do. For example, some state allow them to prescribe pain medication for moms in labor while others do not.
- If you are planning to deliver in a hospital, check to see if the hospital allows midwives to attend births there.
- Ensure you are a good candidate for midwifery care. Midwives tend to handle low-risk pregnancies.
- Make sure you are comfortable with a midwife. Many moms-to-be feel more comfortable with an obstetrician and that is fine. In some cases you may be able to work with both!
Would you consider using a midwife?