Nurse-midwives are indeed an integral part of your pregnancy. These dedicated professionals work with expecting mothers through the day-to-day aspects of pregnancy, serving as an important counsel in ensuring your baby is healthy.
Midwifery is the branch of medicine that provides this care to childbearing women all the way through labor, delivery and postpartum. A midwife will also help with the newborn and assist with breastfeeding.
In addition to this invaluable care during pregnancy, many midwives also deliver primary care, annual GYN exams, family planning and help during menopause.
Midwives mainly focus on low-risk pregnancy, birth and postpartum care and are mainly here to help you make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and natural birth experience. And while they are trained to notice if you’re pregnancy strays from the norm, they are not trained to treat illnesses or perform surgery…that job is left to the obstetrician.
While the two indeed overlap, midwives are much different than obstetricians in that during labor, midwives are not to intervene unless absolutely necessary while OB doctors “actively manage” the birth.
The concept of midwifery dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman era. Midwifery as we know it today though was introduced in 1925 by Mary Breckenridge, who started the Frontier Nursing Service to help pregnant women in remote areas of eastern Kentucky.
Breckenridge’s model combining nursing and midwifery was considered to be quite successful and gave rise to nurse-midwives. In 1939, she started the Frontier Nursing University, the first nurse-midwife program in the U.S.
There are actually two kinds of midwives in the U.S. – a nurse-midwife and direct-entry midwife. The big difference is that a nurse-midwife is educated and certified like a regular RN. They are educated in both nursing and midwifery with many earning Masters’ degrees.
Direct-midwives on the other hand learn through apprenticeships, self-study or a college program very distinct from nursing. They are trained to provide care to healthy mothers and newborns in a non-hospital setting.
Here at All About Women, we have two exceptional nurse-midwives on staff – Shelley Russell and Julie Rischar. Both graduated with a Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Florida and have Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) designations.