Debunking Five Common Myths of Midwifery

While the use of midwives has grown over the last few years in the United States, there is still a large percentage of the population that don’t understand the nature of a midwife—perhaps due to the myths surrounding who midwives are and exactly what they do.

Weymouth resident, Esther Nganga knows all too well about having initial skepticism in choosing midwifery care, but through her personal journey, she learned that choosing a certified nurse midwife (CNM) was a safe, highly satisfying way to welcome her sweet baby boy, Jabari, into the world.

Here are the five most common myths of midwifery and the facts that debunked them for Esther:

Myth 1: Midwives don’t allow pain medicine and epidurals in birth.

Fact: Midwives partner with their patients to determine a plan that fits their needs and desires. Certified nurse midwives understand that each person’s level of pain is unique and they provide expert knowledge in how to best cope with pain during labor—both medicinally and non-medicinally, depending on the patient’s need and desires.

“Growing up in Kenya, I always heard tales of midwives—tales of women laboring and giving birth without the option for pain intervention,” Esther said.

After a friend’s suggestion, however, Esther decided to explore the option of midwifery care by attending South Shore Hospital’s Meet the Midwives class— a signature program offered by South Shore Hospital that provides an open forum for expecting moms and coaches to meet the certified nurse midwives who are available day and night to assist with your labor and birth.

“I was so impressed not only with the feedback from other mothers who have had a midwife birthing experience, but also by the midwives’ vast knowledge and credentials,” she said.

Myth 2: Midwives aren’t formally educated.

Fact: Midwives are highly educated and skilled. CNMs have a degree in nursing as well as a master’s degree. The skill and expertise each midwife has through their advanced training allows for their expert care in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as primary and newborn care.

The highly skilled team of certified nurse midwives and physicians affiliated with South Shore Health have more collective experience delivering babies than any team in the region. In fact, South Shore Hospital is currently the only community-based hospital in Massachusetts with a level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). For midwife patients, there are neonatologists, anesthesiologists and maternal fetal medicine specialists on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“It was comforting to know an entire emergency care team would be just a few feet away,” Esther said.

Myth 3: Midwives only handle pregnancy and birth.

Fact: Though midwives are best known for care in pregnancy and delivery, many patients don’t realize that CNMs provide care throughout all stages of a woman’s life—from teenage years through menopause and beyond. In fact, many women visit a midwife for health needs including yearly gynecology exams, pregnancy planning, breastfeeding, and postpartum care.

Myth 4: Midwives don’t handle chronic health conditions or high-risk pregnancies.

Fact: Though midwives are considered experts in normal or low-risk pregnancies, in some cases they can still co-manage high-risk patients with an OB/GYN. There may be opportunities for a midwife to handle some of your prenatal care, for instance.

At South Shore Hospital, our CNMs are experts in obstetrics—caring for, supporting and enhancing uncomplicated pregnancies, while also knowing precisely how to identify an situation that may require a physician’s intervention.

Each high-risk pregnancy is unique, so co-management should be addressed on a case-by-case basis with your midwife and/or supervising OB/GYN.

Myth 5: Midwives aren’t covered by insurance.

Fact: In most states, it is required that private insurance companies pay for services provided by CNMs, and Medicaid coverage is required in all states. In states that do not require private insurance coverage, many insurance plans still cover the services provided by a CNM.

South Shore Health’s team of 15+ CNMs are members of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board. They see patients both at affiliated community OB/GYN practice settings, including South Shore Medical Center, Crown OB/GYN and Atrius, and on our main campus at South Shore Hospital.

Jessie Wilson, Esther’s CNM, is passionate about the care she provides and the healthy outcomes of her patients, both mother and child. “The entire birthing experience is one of the most significant times in a woman’s life. I enjoy being there for each woman, offering quality care, encouragement, and above all compassionate support. It is so empowering for a woman to overcome the obstacle of fear and even negative thoughts about birth by instead creating a positive experience through supportive caregivers who believe in you,” Jessie said.

The compassionate care Esther experienced during her entire prenatal experience through delivery and beyond has prompted her to share her amazing story with friends and family who may not understand the midwifery model of care. “I am so grateful beyond words and for me, I honestly can’t imagine going through a birthing experience any other way.”

Want to learn more about midwifery? South Shore Hospital hosts an open forum for expectant moms and their partners to get to know these birthing specialists. View our calendar of events for an upcoming Meet the Midwives session, or call (781) 624-4203 for complete details.