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The Truth About Midwifery

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Midwifery care is rapidly becoming a popular option for expecting mothers, and for good reason. Focusing on pregnancy as a time of health, midwives believe in three principles: continuity of care, the mother as the primary decision maker, and choice of birthplace. They believe that natural, unaided childbirth is a normal, joyful and important process, and discourage the use of unnecessary interventions such as forceps, painkillers and c-sections, all of which come with a number of risks. A lesser known fact is that midwives are highly skilled, professionally educated medical practitioners. They are trained to manage all stages of pregnancy, labour, and newborn care. They are some of the most experienced specialists in the Country, and the demand for their care is being felt more now than ever.

Surprisingly, the reason many women are now turning to midwifery care is not because of their expertise, but instead because of the compassionate care they offer. The foundations upon which midwifery is established differ from modern medical practices. They believe in developing a caring and trusting relationship with their patients, and in educating moms-to-be about what is happening with their pregnancy, giving them options, and helping them to make informed choices which they feel are right for themselves.

It is important to note that most Midwives do not manage high-risk pregnancies. They do, however, consult with medical specialists and believe in having an excellent working relationship with local medical and emergency staff. A woman who develops a high risk circumstance well within her pregnancy will still be coached and support by a midwife, alongside an obstetrician, if she so chooses - your midwife will never "pass you off" to another care practitioner. Unlike doctors, midwives also continue to visit in-home for the first six weeks of the child's life to guide and coach new parents on anything they may need assistance with, from swaddling to latching.

Because of their expertise in labour and pain management, midwives are available for women choosing a home birth. Despite common belief, home births are actually just as safe, if not safer, than hospital births. A laboring woman performs better in her own environment, where she can utilize natural, often more effective pain relief methods, such as warm baths and massages. Bright lights, busy nurses, and absent doctors can cause labour to slow down, often to the point where interventions are brought in to speed up the process.

If, during a homebirth, any symptoms arise that may pose a risk, midwives are sure to either call in emergency personnel, or if practical to move the laboring mother to the hospital before the chance of complications arises. It is very rare that life threatening circumstances arise during a home birth, and midwives are trained to manage them if they do. They carry most of the same medical emergency equipment available in hospitals, and follow the same procedures. Midwives also develop excellent professional relationships with local hospitals, and any of their patients not wishing to labour at home may do so with their midwife in a relaxed hospital setting.

Currently there are approximately 700 midwives practicing in Canada, about 400 of which are in Ontario. They attend 1 in 4 births in Ontario. Demand is so high for midwives that up to 75% of women who wish to have a midwife will be turned down due to local midwives already being booked for their birth month. To put it into perspective, there are approximately 28,000 Midwives practicing in Britain alone, who attend approximately 75-80% of all births there. In fact, around 80% of the world relies mainly on midwives for pregnancy and labour, and obstetrician focus only on high risk cases. Hospitals are generally regarded as a place to go only when you are sick, or when something is wrong.

A stigma attached to the practice of midwifery in the 20thCentury greatly changed North American views on pregnancy and childbirth. Through education and experience, women are quickly bringing the practice back. It is not natural, or necessary, to use synthetic hormones and pain killers for childbirth. Women's bodies are designed for childbirth, and are capable of creating their own hormonal cocktail of painkillers. In North America today, the C-Section rate is about 35% and rising, whereas the World Health Organization recommends that about 10-15% of all births are high risk enough to need one. Childbirth is an empowering experience that through education, women are regaining.

Guest blog written by ForderMommy, whom is expecting her first baby. Angie is passionate about having a nautral birth expereince with the assistance of a midwife.