Midwives: Birthing Miracles

Image for Midwives: Birthing Miracles

by Lani Nielsen

As midwives we have great respect for the amazing process called childbirth, a miracle we are privileged to witness on a daily basis. We are dedicated to respecting birth as a natural process, not a medical condition requiring treatment. We honor childbirth as a rite of passage, a life-changing, empowering event that profoundly affects women emotionally and mentally.

The word midwife means “with woman.” Midwifery is both a science and an art. Using a holistic approach, midwives blend medical knowledge and common sense to provide women’s health care. Midwives consider it a privilege to walk the journey of life beside our sisters, mentoring and guiding, encouraging and caring for them throughout the life cycle.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) care for women and child-bearing families. Full-scope midwifery care includes prenatal care, labor and delivery attendance, and post-delivery care for low-risk women. Employing current evidence-based medical practices, midwives also see women for annual exams, pap tests, birth control, STD testing, menopause, and many common female problems.

Midwives view wellness from a different perspective than the traditional medical model. We believe women should be encouraged to make their own informed decisions about their health care and self care. Women, as natural caregivers, can use their remarkable intuition to take care of themselves, given the appropriate information and encouragement. We aim to empower women in all stages of life, from teens to grandmothers, so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families. We encourage them, teach them, and refer them to resources for information or to alternative practitioners for treatment.

A newly pregnant woman has a new awareness of caring for her own body, for in doing so she is also caring for her unborn child. It is an opportune time to re-evaluate negative habits such as smoking or poor eating and to make changes. Midwives can help pregnant couples sort fact from fiction and adopt healthy lifestyle changes. Appointments allow time for teaching and discussion; no question is silly. Because pregnancy is a family experience, siblings are welcome at prenatal visits. We encourage them to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and measure their mama’s tummy. By the end of the pregnancy they are little experts!

Pregnancy also presents an opportunity for women to trust that their bodies know how to create a new life and bring it forth. We aim to promote that self-trust and alleviate fears. Pregnancy can be fraught with discomforts and complications. Because midwives are experts in what is “normal,” we recognize when the mother’s health has veered off-track, and we know when to consult with our physicians or refer a patient to a doctor’s care.

We want couples to experience the birth they desire. A mom can opt for natural childbirth, using assistance such as an epidural or IV pain medication, or use other measures such as a Jacuzzi tub, massage or TENS unit. We provide a calm and steady presence to help with the discomfort of labor. We encourage moms to take an active role in labor, using various positions for comfort and to encourage the birth process. Most births are attended by the nurse midwife alone; a doctor is not needed unless complications arise. We strive to make the atmosphere calm and welcoming for the family and the new baby. With positive, encouraging guidance, a woman can emerge with a new sense of her abilities and strengths, whether the birth proceeds exactly as planned or not.

A CNM is well-versed in recognizing when childbirth takes a departure from the norm and how to care for the woman. Nurse midwives have higher satisfaction ratings and lower Caesarean section rates — as well as lower rates for other medical interventions — than traditional medical providers. When an emergency arises, we attend to it with the best medical technology available. We work closely with an obstetrical doctor who can readily assist or provide a cesarean delivery immediately if necessary. Childbirth is more than just a medical event that involves a mother and baby. It is a social event that impacts the entire family. Midwives involve the baby’s father and other family members as active participants who can support the laboring mother with massage, offer ice chips and provide comfort. Fathers may elect to help the midwife deliver the newborn, dry the baby on mama’s tummy or cut the cord. Once the baby is delivered, the midwife immediately places the newborn on mom’s now billowy, empty tummy. An hour of skin-to-skin bonding and nursing is encouraged. Siblings may be present to welcome their new brother or sister, provided that they are well prepared and have a support person with them. It is amazing to see a new life welcomed into the circle of a loving family.

Lani Nielsen, CNM, practices midwifery at the Womens’ Clinic of Northern Colorado. She and three other midwives (Terri Leiser-Gross CNM, Kelly Jean Clarkson CNM and Cassandra Selby CNM) deliver babies at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.