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  • Midwifery: A Concept of Care that Means ‘With Women’

Published on January 06, 2014

Midwifery: A Concept of Care that Means ‘With Women’


SIOUX FALLS (Jan. 1, 2014)Every woman has her own unique set of hopes, desires and circumstances when it comes to health care, especially for prenatal and delivery care. Midwifery is an option that offers women an opportunity to be an active partner in their health care.

Certified nurse midwives are licensed health practitioners who provide care for women throughout their lifespan, including well-woman care and childbirth. “We inform patients of their options and keep them as involved in their care as possible,” said Audra DeGroot, CNM, MSN, with Avera Medical Group Certified Nurse Midwifery.

“We emphasize a personal relationship with patients, and spend a lot of time with them. A lot of women say that we’re more like their friend rather than just their health care provider,” said Lisa VanGerpen, CNM, MSN with Avera Medical Group Certified Nurse Midwifery.

The history of the term “midwife” goes back to ancient times, and it literally means “with women.” Yet times have changed. Certified nurse midwives are nurses with a master’s degree in nursing and certification in midwifery. They are licensed in all 50 states.

Education level is one misconception people often have about midwives. In the distant past, midwives were not formally educated or certified, and there are still those who claim the role of “midwife” who have no formal qualifications.

Another misconception is that midwives deliver babies in homes, when 98 percent of certified nurse midwives, including those with Avera, do hospital deliveries only.

Also, people think that nurse midwives don’t offer pain management options during childbirth. “Women often hear that they have to ‘bite the bullet’ if they go with a midwife. But we offer epidurals, IV medications – whatever the patient wants. However, we do feel that patients should be informed about all the risks and benefits of pain medications,” VanGerpen said.

Yet many women who choose a midwife want a natural childbirth experience. Heidi Tonneson of Colman, S.D., was one such patient. She recently delivered a healthy baby boy, Oliver Andrew, under the care of DeGroot.  “For me it was a way to have options and make informed decisions. Midwives are very open to that,” Heidi said. “Labor and delivery is a natural process; our bodies know how to do it. We wanted as little medical intervention as possible.”

Heidi said she would have been fine delivering at home, but she and her husband, Andy, realized the importance of having all the benefits of a hospital close at hand, in case something went wrong.  “We knew there were specialists right next door who could intervene,” Heidi said. They also knew that NICU care was at hand if their baby had special needs at birth.

“Everything went exactly as we had hoped,” Heidi said. “We had a very calm experience.” Heidi and Andy said they appreciated the fact that DeGroot never left the room throughout labor and delivery. And during prenatal care, they never felt rushed at an appointment.

Certified nurse midwives are trained to deal with common complications during pregnancy and delivery, however, they work closely with perinatologists and OB/GYN specialists if complications arise. “We care for women in a teamwork approach,” DeGroot said.

“We do a lot of labor support,” DeGroot said, and this results in a low C-section rate of about 10 percent. “We are in the room a lot, and if labor is not progressing, we figure out why,” VanGerpen added.

Partnering with women in the birthing process is something that never gets old. “It’s incredible to be part of a life-changing event,” DeGroot said. “When women who want a natural childbirth are able to deliver naturally, they often feel an extreme sense of accomplishment, like they’ve just climbed Mt. Everest – and you are the one who helped them get there. It’s one of the most amazing things you can be a part of,” VanGerpen said.

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