Midwives provide care for pregnant women through pregnancy, labor, and
delivery. Their method of care tends to rely less on medical tests and devices and works to include family members. Midwives usually do not work with high-risk pregnancies unless working closely with a doctor. There are many different types of midwives with varying degrees of education. This delivery option is gaining in popularity.
The Cochrane Library conducted a review of several past studies to determine the safety of midwife birth when compared to traditional hospital delivery. The review found that there was no increased risk for this type of delivery. In fact, women that gave birth with midwives had some benefits.
There were 11 trials included in the review with a total of 12,276 women. The study reviewed outcomes of births delivered in a traditional setting versus a midwife approach. There was no statistical difference between the groups for death of newborns. However, women with midwives were:
- More likely to have spontaneous vaginal birth, have high perceptions of control, and initiate breastfeeding
Less likely to use analgesia or anesthesia, need hospitalization, have an
(a surgical cut between vagina and rectum), or need forceps or vacuum assisted birth
- More likely to have infants that had shorter stays in hospital
There are many different birth programs and options. Look for a program you feel most comfortable with. Communicate your choices and needs to whatever provider you choose. There are varying levels of certifications among midwives. Make sure to discuss these when looking for a midwife.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy your choices may be limited. Discuss your options with your doctor.
Hatem M, Sandall J, Devane D, Soltani H, Gates S. Midwife-led versus other models of care for childbearing women.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004667. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004667.pub2.
Last reviewed February 2009 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD
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