What is a Midwife?

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May 10, 2021 · By Gaylynn Thomas, RN
What is a midwife? A midwife is a trained medical expert who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy and childbirth.[1] They are similar to an OB/GYN, but there are distinct differences between these two jobs. Midwives are not doctors and have a narrower focus in their practice. Midwifery is a traditional practice in childbirth going back thousands of years![2]  
Brief History of Midwifery
Midwifery is the second oldest profession for women in the world. The practice of midwifery is documented in the Old Testament. The derivation of the word midwife means “with woman,” giving credence to the most enduring hallmark of midwifery which connotes a human presence during birth.
According to Midwifery Today, New York City first required the licensing of midwives in 1716. Doctors were not usually formally educated, so midwives were utilized for childbirth due to a greater knowledge base.

Formal training first began in 1765; however, many midwives felt that childbirth was the domain of women and they were reluctant to receive training from male instructors. Also, many women were not literate which made formal education near impossible.

Through decades of legislative, political, and socioeconomic challenges, Midwifery has evolved to be a critical and trusted profession. Today, nurse midwives are highly educated, specialized professionals who work alongside obstetricians to provide holistic women's health and maternity care

What does a midwife do?

Midwives perform maternal-centric care during pregnancy and childbirth. They usually focus on low-risk pregnancies because they cannot perform C-sections and have fewer pain management options than doctors. Many midwives specialize in home births and water births, which have become popular in recent years. 
Midwives do more than just deliver babies.! They are trained to help you before, during, and after your pregnancy. Here are some other points of care they provide along the way:[3]
●     Help you with family planning before conception
●     Order tests and do prenatal exams
●     Keep an eye on your physical and mental health
●     Help you with your birth plan
●     Educate you on how to care for your new baby
●     Refer you to doctors if/when necessary
●     Give you emotional support
●     Take you to and from the hospital
To read more about Midwifery in the United States and the United Kingdom, read our blog post:
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