October 5-11 is National Midwifery Week! To celebrate I thought I would write a post about the current state of midwifery and where we are headed. According to the American Midwifery Certification Board, there are currently 13,071 Certified Nurse Midwives in the United States. This is a growing number. In 2013, 539 new CNMs passed their certification exam. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), this is an 88% increase since 2007.
Midwifery is one of the oldest professions in the world. They were the main birth attendants, even in this country, up until the 19th century. As modern medicine began to quickly evolve, women began seeking the care of doctors for the birth of their babies. Midwives mainly served patients who were poor or who lived in remote areas. As the melting pot continued to grow and more cultures were bringing more traditions and ideas to the table, it became apparent that developing a model of education was needed. In the early 1900s, midwifery programs began to emerge. In 1955 the American College of Nurse-Midwives (our professional organization) was established. Even today there are different ideas about where the midwifery model should be used and how midwives should be regulated, but we are now a growing field again.
Advanced Practice Nurses/Nurse Practitioners are becoming more and more popular in the healthcare field and Certified Nurse Midwives fit into this group. While physicians are extremely talented and trained to deliver babies in many different ways, the midwifery model is helpful for reducing interventions and offering better outcomes to low risk women. We live in the age of technology, and our healthcare costs continue to rise. Unfortunately the increased spending in the area of obstetrics has not reduced our mortality rate. In fact, it continues to rise. Part of this is due to the declining health of the American people due to unhealthy choices. Midwives specialize in prevention and wellness. If we can encourage wellness and prevent chronic diseases, we will see less high-risk pregnancies and in turn, have better outcomes. Another culprit of our increasing mortality rate is the unnecessary use of interventions. Many of the interventions that are available to us are wonderful tools when we need them, but we now know that disturbing the normal birth process, trying to rush it, or stopping it for convenience sake is not only non-evidenced based, it can also be dangerous. Utilizing the midwifery model and recognizing normal processes in pregnancy and birth will help to decrease the use of interventions and help us have better outcomes for mommies and babies.
In closing, I wanted to highlight HealthNet’s Midwifery practice. Our midwives have been practicing here in Indianapolis since 1991! We are the largest midwifery practice in the state of Indiana and we helped over 2,422 babies into the world last year. In our practice, we work extremely closely with our physicians to ensure safety for our patients and give them the best experience possible. Even with our high risk population we are well below the national average for C-Sections and maternal and infant mortality. We recognize that we can always do better, however, and we continue to look for ways to better our practice.
Post by Megan McDonald, CNM