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In the world of maternity care, a group of health care professionals often work quietly in the background, providing crucial support and care to expectant parents. These unsung heroes are midwives, and their role is often misunderstood or underestimated. What is a midwife, and what responsibilities do midwives have to birthing parents and the child before, during and after childbirth?
A midwife is a trained health care professional specializing in childbirth and reproductive health. They are distinct from obstetricians, as their approach emphasizes a more natural and holistic perspective on pregnancy, labor and childbirth. Midwives provide care before, during, and after pregnancy, offering services that promote maternal and fetal well-being.
One of the fundamental roles of midwives is to provide prenatal care, such as regular checkups and monitoring throughout pregnancy to ensure the health and well-being of the birthing parent and the developing baby. These checkups include physical exams, ultrasound scans and blood tests to track the progress of the pregnancy.
“Prenatal care provided by midwives focuses on building a strong and supportive relationship with the birthing parent,” said Waverly Lutz, CNM, midwife at Inspira Medical Group’s Gentle Beginnings. “They aim to educate and empower patients to make informed choices about their pregnancy and birthing experience.”
Midwives play a pivotal role during labor and delivery. They provide emotional support, pain management techniques and guidance during this intense and transformative process. While midwives are skilled in managing uncomplicated births, they are trained to recognize and respond to possible complications.
“Midwives advocate for a patient-centered approach, ensuring the birthing experience aligns with the birthing parent’s preferences and values,” said Lutz. “But they are also well-prepared to safely handle emergencies and collaborate with obstetricians when necessary.”
The care midwives provide doesn't end with the baby's birth. They continue to provide support throughout the postpartum period, offering guidance on breastfeeding, postpartum recovery and emotional well-being. This ongoing care is essential for the health and bonding of both parent and child.
Midwives play a crucial role in advocating for the birthing parent’s rights and choices in childbirth. They promote informed decision-making and work to ensure that parents have the autonomy to choose the type of birth experience they desire, whether it's a home birth, hospital birth or birthing center experience.
They also provide comprehensive wellness care, including preventive gynecological exams, pap tests, birth control counseling, sexual health advice and overall reproductive well-being, regardless of pregnancy intent.
“Empowering patients to make choices that align with their values is at the core of midwifery care,” Lutz emphasized. “They believe every parent should have access to safe and respectful maternity care that honors her preferences and cultural beliefs.”
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