What can and can’t midwives do?

What can and can’t midwives do?

Despite how universal and widely experienced it is, giving birth is a highly personal event. There’s absolutely no one-size-fits-all approach to childbirth. Even if your health or the health of your pregnancy requires certain specific types of care, that doesn’t mean that your preferences don’t matter.

Depending on your special circumstances and health needs, a certain birth plan might be easier to safely follow than another. Either way, if you’ve been thinking about having a midwife attend your birth, it can be extremely helpful to understand what midwives can help with, and what circumstances are better suited for an obstetrician or a more medical setting.

Midwives provide a unique service that many women can benefit from. However, not all women can or should use a midwife. The model of midwifery care, and a midwife’s abilities or limitations might clarify whether or not a midwife is a good choice for you, so consider what midwives can and can’t do, and how they relate to your pregnancy.

Midwives can:

  • Deliver babies
  • Schedule prenatal appointments that involve going over prenatal basics with women and educating them on how to stay healthy during and after pregnancy
  • Perform basic physical exams that include taking a woman’s pulse, blood pressure, check the baby’s position, and as well assessing general maternal and fetal health
  • Order blood tests and lab work, if they are a certified nurse midwife (CNM)
  • Watch for potential pregnancy and labor complications
  • Provide their patients with moral support and constant attention
  • Guide women through natural births
  • Administer epidurals if their patients are delivering in a hospital setting

Midwives cannot:

  • Administer anesthesia or use advanced medical equipment
  • Administer epidurals (though anesthesiologists can administer one if you’re delivering in a hospital)
  • Perform surgery, including C-sections
  • Use vaccum- or forceps-assisted deliveries
  • Help with high-risk pregnancies like ectopic pregnancies or pregnancies involving terminal diseases. (It’s worth mentioning that some midwives can help with these, but certainly not all midwives)

If you’re considering working with a midwife, it’s a good idea to review the things that midwives can and can’t do, to see how those fit with your pregnancy and your personal ideas of how you would prefer your labor to go. For example, if you absolutely want the option of a C-section during labor, you’ll want to make sure that there’s an obstetrician available at your birth. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions or do more research too – this is your birth experience after all. Safety is ultimately the first concern, but your comfort and your preferences are a close second.

  • “Essential competencies for basic midwifery practice.” InternationalMidwives. International Confederation of Midwives, 2013. Web.
  • “Levels of Maternal Care.” ACOG. Obstetric Care Consensus no. 2 from American College of Obstetricians and Pediatricians, Feb 2015. Web.
  • “Midwives.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, 2017. Web.
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