When it comes to the way you want to deliver your baby, you have options. Midwifery practices for delivering a baby often vary from what traditional doctors use, but this may be just what you need to have as relaxing of a delivery as you possibly can. Before you decide what type of health care provider to use, you might want to learn more about midwifery and its delivery practices.
Nearly every known civilization has depended on midwives to deliver babies. Ancient cultures, including Israeli and Egyptian, mention midwives in conjunction with delivery. The term midwife has an etymology dating back to the 14th century, and it means “with woman.” As early as the 18th century, midwives began using manikins, models of the human body, to help show women what to expect during delivery. These cloth models depict the womb, the pelvis and the fetus. In 1716, New York City began requiring midwives to have a license in order to use midwifery practices during delivery.
In 1900, fewer than 5 percent of women delivered babies in hospitals in the United States, according to Midwifery Today. By 1921, 30 to 50 percent of women were delivering in hospitals. This amount increased to 88 percent in 1950. In most countries, midwives assist with 80 percent of deliveries; however, they only assist with about 7 percent in the United States, based on figures reported by Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives.
Therapeutic alliance defines the relationship when a health care provider and a patient work together toward the same goal. A study by Mary Ellen Doherty, a doctor and associate professor with Western Connecticut State University, reported that all the participants mentioned therapeutic alliance as one of the main practices of midwifery delivery. Midwifery practices may also include having patients walk or use various physical positioning during delivery, rather than lying in a bed. Depending on the state where the midwife is practicing and the licenses she has, a midwife may use medical techniques during delivery. These can include giving the patient pain medication, inducing labor and monitoring the fetus with electronic equipment. In some cases, a midwife may use a scalpel to make an episiotomy, which is a small slice along the perineum to help prevent tearing as the baby passes through the vagina.
Even though many midwives get a medical certification, misconceptions still prevent some women from working with a midwife during delivery. One of the most common misconceptions is that midwives require patients to delivery naturally, with no pain medication during labor or delivery. While midwives encourage natural delivery, patients may choose to use pain medication. Another misconception is that patients must deliver at home. In reality, 97 percent of women who use midwives deliver in hospitals, according to the Westerly Hospital.
As of 2010, midwifery is illegal in 10 U.S. states, according to the Midwives Alliance of North America. Licensing of some type is required or voluntary in 26 states. Only four states legally permit but do not regulate midwifery. If you want to use a midwife, make sure you know what your state allows to avoid problems during delivery.