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More women in the US use midwives

Nadine Watters

Jennifer White recently gave birth to her baby with the help of a certified nurse-midwife. The first-time mother decided on a home birth after learning how many hospitals opt for cesarean sections. Arkansas’ rate of cesarean sections is 33-35%, a number too high for White’s comfort. (1)

So for her own pregnancy and labor, White and her husband chose the Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas, a center that offers midwifery care, water birth, and breastfeeding support. (2)

“The midwife was there to coach me the entire time,” said White. “I could choose whatever position was most comfortable for me.” (3)

A small but growing number of women in the United States are choosing to give birth using the services of a certified nurse-midwife. The number of midwife attended births — at home, in birthing centers, and in hospitals — reached 313,846 or 7.9% of all births in 2012. (4)

Midwifery ‘Not just for hippies’

Certified nurse-midwives are nurses who receive specialized training in labor and delivery. They typically work with low-risk pregnancies, but are required to have a plan for consultation and collaboration with other levels of medical care should things become complicated (5).

“I have this poster that says ‘home birth; it’s not just for hippies anymore,'” said Mairi Rothman, a certified nurse-midwife since 1996, “Women from every walk of life choose to have their babies at home.” (6)

Despite negative stereotypes about more risks or lower-quality of care, the numbers of women who want a natural birth with the care of a midwife continue to increase.

Rothman said, “Midwives have fought for legitimacy for many decades, so as a result they’ve become extra competent, extra vigilant, and very much specialists in the care of women experiencing normal childbirth and normal pregnancy.” (6)

In many countries around the world, midwifery care is essential to the maternity care system. In the Netherlands, for example, a third of the babies are born at home. The country is a world leader for best outcomes in terms of infant mortality. (7)

In the meantime, new mom Jennifer White encourages women to educate themselves about their childbirth options so they can make the best decision for themselves and their babies.

Sources for this article include:
(3) White, Jennifer. (October 31, 2014). In-person Interview.