When most people think about midwives, they think about labor and birth. However, their extensive training in gender-specific health care that goes far beyond pregnancy.
Midwives provide personalized care to any patients with uteruses, ovaries, or breasts—care that is customized to patients’ specific needs while working collaboratively with their OB/GYN or primary provider.
As certified nurse-midwife, Melissa E. Peard puts it, “From your first appointment of your life to your last, your midwife will help you navigate the health system for your needs. At Jefferson, we make stressful circumstances easier and take navigating the healthcare system off the plate of the patient.”
What is the difference between a midwife and an OB/GYN?
While some have doctorate degrees, midwives are not medical doctors or physicians like your OB/GYN. Rather, they are advanced-practice nurses with master’s degrees and specific training in women’s health.
Like an OB/GYN, you could see a midwife from your first gynecological appointment through puberty, pregnancy and family planning, and menopause. Midwives can provide independent care and work collaboratively with your OB/GYN or primary care provider. For example, they can provide the lowest-risk pregnancy and birth a patient desires, and work together with a specialist if a patient needs additional services. “We are able to provide faster access to care,” says Peard. “Perhaps the doctor you’ve been seeing is booked. In the meantime, you can meet with a midwife to start on your care so you don’t have to wait months for an initial meeting. Your midwife can speak with your physician and order the appropriate lab tests or imaging so that, when they are able to meet with you, they can develop a plan of care quickly.”
How does a midwife support an OB/GYN?
Midwives provide collaborative and interdisciplinary care alongside your OB/GYN. Collaboration is ingrained into how midwives work, and they frequently work together with your physician to help you make the right decisions for you and your body. This includes all decisions about pregnancy, from when to become pregnant, to giving birth and postpartum care. Midwife care also includes things like help finding the right birth control or deciding on hormone therapy to cope with the symptoms of menopause. “The crux of midwifery is that we value body autonomy, so we want to make you a partner in our decision making,” says Peard.
Many people begin seeing a midwife when they become pregnant. However, if complications arise along the way, your midwife works with you to connect you to the best care for your specific needs, including an OB/GYN, neonatal, or maternal-fetal medicine specialist to address your evolving needs. Midwives aim to make this transition seamless for their patients.
Why you might consider a midwife
Midwives aim to be a partner to you in your healthcare journey. By providing collaborative care that blends all models (both midwifery and medical), they aim to reassure their patients and provide the best care for everyone. While there are many things a midwife can take care of on their own, what they afford you is the ability to listen to your needs, personalize your care, and connect you to any other providers you may want or need. “Hopefully we make your healthcare experience more robust, more accessible, and more personal,” says Peard.
[Main photo credit: ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services]