Midwive helping with deliverymidwife is someone who is trained to care for women with low-risk pregnancies and those who are expecting normal deliveries. Midwives help more than 300,000 women give birth each year in the US; most births take place in hospitals, but some occur in birthing centers or at home. A midwife’s education stresses that pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy events, not potential medical emergencies.

A midwife may:

  • help facilitate a natural childbirth
  • spend more time with you than a medical doctor during prenatal visits
  • work in collaboration with a physician
  • be part of a labor and delivery team
  • associated with a local hospital
  • provide vaginal exams or fetal heart-rate monitoring
  • help minimize medical interventions, such as induced labor, C-sections, and episiotomies
  • stay with you during your entire labor and delivery
  • handle an emergency transfer to a hospital if there are problems during a home birth
  • provide postpartum care, including breastfeeding support
  • provide well-woman care outside the realm of pregnancy and childbirth, including family planning and annual gynecological exams
  • set up payment plans or sliding fees, or accept insurance plans, including Medicaid

A midwife will not:

  • care for you if you have a preexisting medical condition, such as diabetes or epilepsy
  • perform a C-section birth
  • deliver a child with forceps or vacuum
  • use medical interventions such as electronic fetal monitoring or epidurals without a doctor’s supervision

Midwives and home births

If you are planning to deliver your baby at home, here are some questions to ask your potential midwife.

  • How do you handle problems during labor?
  • When would we go to the hospital?
  • What drugs and equipment do you use in the home?
  • Do you have a formal agreement with an obstetrician/gynecologist to provide care if problems occur?
  • Which hospital will I be transported to if a problem occurs during labor?
  • Would you stay with me if we transfer?
  • Are you trained in newborn resuscitation?

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are licensed healthcare providers educated in nursing and midwifery. Certified midwives (CMs) are licensed healthcare providers educated in midwifery. Both have graduated from college, have passed a national exam, and have completed an accredited program of the American College of Nurse Midwives. 

How does a doula help?

There are two types of doulas: A birth doula is a private support coach who can assist before and during labor. A postpartum doula can provide hands-on help at home, such as cooking and cleaning and caring for your baby. Some offer both types of services. Studies show that doulas can help reduce:

  • the time spent in labor
  • the need for pain medication
  • complications during birth
  • the rate of postpartum depression, and they also boost baby-mommy bonding 

Think you’d like to hire a doula? 

Ask potential doulas these questions:

  • Why did you decide to become a doula? (Does this doula’s personality and approach mesh with your own?)
  • How many births have you attended? How long have you been practicing? (Ask for referrals.)
  • Are you available around my due date? Do you have a back-up on call? (Consider meeting and interviewing the back-up.)
  • When will you arrive—from labor’s first at-home pangs or when I meet you at the hospital or birth center? Do you offer any special services? (Some may provide massage, photography, aromatherapy, or other unique services—such as writing your birth story.)
  • What do you think of medication during birth? Would you support both medicated and non-medicated births? What’s your fee? (Your doula’s services may be reimbursable under your healthcare plan, or she might offer a payment plan or sliding-scale fees.)
  • Which hospitals and birth centers have you worked in? Have you worked with my midwife or physician before? What type of pre-labor and post-labor support do you provide? Do you offer labor simulation exercises or help with breastfeeding and baby care? (You want answers to all of these questions.)

Where can you find a doula?

You can find a doula through word-of-mouth recommendations from other moms, njfamily.com/directories, and at the website for Doulas of North America, dona.org. 

Erin Bernard-Benson is a freelance writer and mom who lives in New Jersey.