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For women, a health care journey can be a winding road with a lot of natural and unexpected health changes. From well-woman care and prevention to family planning, conception, pregnancy, delivery, post-partum and even breast health — there’s one thing that can remain consistent: a woman’s active decision-making in her health care.
And that is the very focus of certified nurse midwives.
While many people assume that midwives only deliver babies via home birth, this is far from the truth. In fact, nurse midwives are highly trained and credentialed to provide comprehensive women’s care for life.
We spoke toJordan Skees, Certified Nurse Midwife at AdventHealth Medical Group OB/GYN, about the often unknown scope of nurse midwifery services, as well as some common misconceptions about midwifery care.
1. Nurse Midwives Are Different Than Doulas
“Many people think that nurse midwives and doulas are the same thing, but this isn’t true,” says Skees.
A doula can help many women through her pregnancy, labor and birth, but more as an emotional support coach. “Doulas can be a great asset to women, but they are not a medical care provider,” clarifies Skees.
A nurse midwife, on the other hand, is a clinically trained nurse who receives further training and certification to provide medical care through a woman’s entire life from well-checkups to pregnancy, delivery and postpartum.
2. Nurse Midwives Provide In-Hospital Labor and Delivery Care
Another common misconception is that nurse midwives only deliver babies through home birth.
Skees explains, “While there are midwives that do home births, many are licensed midwives or direct entry midwives and not nurse midwives. At AdventHealth, all of our nurse midwives are licensed as advanced practice nurses and certified nationally to practice. We do all of our deliveries in the hospital setting and collaborate with our OB/GYN physicians on high-risk cases,” explains Skees.
3. Nurse Midwives Support Women to Make Their Own Pain Management Choices
Some may think that selecting a nurse midwife for labor and delivery means that you must have a natural birth without an epidural or other means of pain management. Skees notes that this is far from the truth.
She further describes, “The word “midwife” means “with woman”— at its essence, a midwife is a care provider trained to walk the journey with you in your care and partner in delivering the care that is best for you. We support you in whatever decision you make, of course with our utmost priority being the safety of you and your baby. That relationship is the same no matter what pain management choices you decide are best for you.”
4. Nurse Midwives Provide the Full Spectrum of Women’s Care
Skees shares that it’s common for people to think that nurse midwives only deliver babies, but in reality, a big and important part of a nurse midwife’s care is annual and ongoing well-women care.
“During those visits, we can talk about anything that’s applicable or important to a woman’s health at her life stage and state of health. This can be preconception, lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, vitamins/herbs, and even modalities outside of western medicine pharmaceuticals, like acupuncture or massage, for instance.”
While practiced under the midwifery model of evidence-based care and shared decision making, some of the additional services that midwives provide include:
- Birth control consultations
- IUD selection and placement
- Well-woman visits
- Visits to address pelvic pain and menstrual cycle issues
- STI screenings
- Breast exams
Skees explains, “Patients have the option to see us to get their care journey started with assessments, testing and lab work. Then, once we have the results, they can follow up with one of our doctors if needed, and we can help manage treatment and ongoing care.”
5. Midwives Provide Whole-Health Women’s Care for the Body, Mind and Spirit
Nurse midwives, especially those at AdventHealth for Women, are particularly focused on helping women thrive with a holistic approach to complete health in body, mind and spirit.
Skees notes, “At any stage, teaching is important to us as midwives. We promote patient autonomy and being involved in their own care decisions. We help women understand how their body is working, how and why it’s changing, and how they can work with those changes to have the best life and experiences possible.”
She explains that because of this approach, nurse midwife visits can be a little longer compared to traditional OB/GYN appointments.
“We take a lot of time to educate and help a woman feel informed and involved in her health and care. We also investigate and offer alternative options, too, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care and others that could be supportive.”
6. Nurse Midwives Have a Positive Working Relationship With OB/GYN Physicians
Our nurse midwives have a very collaborative and positive working team culture between other nurses and the OB/GYN physicians.
“We all work closely with nurses and patients to promote a vaginal delivery when safe and the best choice for the patient,” Skees adds.
She explains that this includes helping the laboring woman move in different positions to help the baby rotate, and even modalities like essential oils and birthing balls to get out of the traditional mold of being stuck in the bed to labor.
“For women with high-risk pregnancies, we collaborate with physicians. We are trained and equipped to do essentially the first line of care, even if high risk. In pregnancy this could be multiples or a chronic condition like diabetes, or non-pregnant woman with a condition like fibroids or menstrual problems,” says Skees.
From there, Skees says she often communicates with her team of OB/GYNs to be informed on next steps. That way, the patient can experience midwifery care but also specialist care as well.
A Calling to Serve You
To Skees, her choice to become a midwife was a true calling.
“I wanted to be a midwife ever since I was a little girl. My mother held childbirth education at our house as a doula. I became enamored with the whole process from pregnancy to the transition to motherhood. I loved the idea of caring for women and seeing babies be born,” she recounts.
And today, Skees loves her career and service to patients just as much as she hoped she would.
“There’s nothing better than bringing a new life into the world,” she concludes.