Last week, I had a prenatal appointment with my midwife. It reminded me of why I chose to deliver with a midwifery practice rather than an OB/GYN practice.
My first pregnancy, I went to a midwife for prenatal care and most of the labor. I intended to have a water birth at home. However, I transferred to the hospital about 15 hour after my water broke and labor was not progressing. Hear all about My Birth Story.
When I announced to family and friends I was having a home birth, some of them freaked out. Although I had thoroughly researched my decision and knew it was best, they questioned me every step of the way. Out of ignorance, because they hadn’t actually done any research themselves, they believed hospital births were better. Due to lack of research, they were just regurgitating social stigma. I think some of them believed hiring a midwife meant a woman, 80 years old, showing up at my door with a bucket of water and hot towels.
Of course there were some people in my family, like my mom and my sister, who were well educated on the medical system, especially as it relates to pregnancy, that thought it was a great idea. “I hear it’s safer,” my mom, who was a nurse, said.
This time around, no one seems to be questioning my decision. Maybe because home births have become more popular. Maybe because it’s my second baby so they respect my decision more. I don’t know.
Let me first say I loved my midwife the first time and I love my midwifery practice now. Despite being transferred during my first birth, I labored mostly at home with my midwife. I would never have made it without an epidural if I was at the hospital the entire time. I also am not sure my birth at the hospital would have been so uncomplicated without my midwife supporting me for 9 months through my pregnancy. She really helped me prepare my body for labor and delivery.
Vaginal, epidural-free birth was important to me because I believe the natural birthing experience prepares us to be mothers. It opens us up spiritually, mentally, and physically for the challenges that are ahead. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. But it strengthened me in ways that nothing ever has and I believe nothing ever will. Being a mom has been a breeze. Natural labor and birth prepared me well. And my intuition became 10x stronger after birth. My hubby calls me a superhero!
Just in case you’re on the fence and trying to make a decision for your own birth, let me share with you my reasons for preferring midwives over Ob’s.
Reasons I Prefer Midwives Over OB’s
Prenatal and Preventative Care
My prenatal appointments with a midwife last between 30 minutes to an hour, sometimes longer. Midwives really take time to know each person and assess your needs. OB appointments generally last about 15 minutes. Birthing is such an intimate experience, I want to have a real relationship with my caretaker. I think this creates a more trusting birthing environment during labor and delivery. It’s hard to have openness without trust, literally.
Education and Training
Midwives are trained in natural birth. Ob/Gyn’s are trained for medicalized births and operations. Ob’s are great in emergency situations. However, they severely lack knowledge on how to prevent emergencies from happening and how to maintain normal, natural births. For example, my midwife stressed nutrition to me with each visit. She collected a food journal and stayed on top of me to make sure I was getting enough iron, protein, water, etc. According to her research, nutrition could prevent edema, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, strep B, and more. In fact, proper nutrition could also contribute to a natural birth. My friends who were going to Ob’s never got this type of information. I don’t think their ob’s even knew this information. When I researched the education and curriculum of Ob’s, I didn’t see courses about nutrition and wellness care. Their education is surgery and emergency based. You can always transfer if an emergency arises. Midwives always have contingency plans in place just in case. But why start there? If you have a low risk pregnancy, midwives are much more qualified.
Higher Mortality Rates at Hospital
Study after study shows the mother and baby mortality rates among hospital births is higher than birth center and planned home births. Women who are low risk are safer at home or with a midwife who specializes in low risk pregnancies and births.
Low C-section Rates
Most midwife practices, birth centers, and home births have much lower c-section rates than hospitals and the national average. Most women I know who give birth today have c-sections. This is major surgery and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The national c-section rate in the United States is about 30%. But many individual hospitals are much higher. For example, one of the most popular hospitals in Atlanta has a c-section rate of over 40%. My midwifery practice’s c-section rate was under 3%. That’s a huge difference. Midwives do everything they can to prevent c-section. Many OB’s and hospitals are more concerned about legal concerns and refer to c-sections when any complication arises, even complications that can be handled with safer and more natural options. Midwives are trained in the safer and more natural options and only see c-sections as a last resort.
Doctor-centered Vs. Woman-centered
Hospital births are so doctor centered. When I arrived at the hospital and was hooked up to machines and had to put a heart monitor around my stomach, I was mortified. How could I possibly get comfortable enough to labor and birth in this uncomfortable position? Comfort is a huge deal for natural birth. If a woman’s body is stressed during labor, all sorts of complications can arise. However, hospital rooms are loud, bright, and it seems no attention is given to the comfort of the mother, the most important person. Everything is structured so the doctor is comfortable. Even the positioning during delivery is for the convenience of the doctor. Midwives are completely woman-centered, which makes labor and delivery more comfortable and relaxing, which means less pain and less complications.
More Face-to-Face Time
When I was laboring at home, my midwife or her assistant, who I worked with for the previous 9 months, checked on me at least every 30 minutes. My midwife sat with me, breathe with me, gave me suggestions for getting things moving, etc. She was there in a supportive role, not just a doctor. At the hospital, I saw the doc maybe 2 times total. Once in the beginning. She did asks what my desired outcome looked like, which was considerate. And then I saw her when it was time to push. In between, I saw lots and lots of nurses. Some nice, some rude. Some great, some not good great. At a hospital, you never know who is coming into your room next.
Overall, I believe everything worked out for my birthing experience. However, if I had to do it all over again, I may have waited a little longer for baby Skye to come at home. And I would have asked everyone in my home to leave except my hubby and birthing team. I would express gratitude for the hospital and receiving pitocin that helped Skye come out timely. However, I know it’s no coincidence Skye was ready to come about 30 minutes after my mother arrived. Having a supportive environment during birth should be every mother’s first priority! Keep that in mind for a home birth. Only allow people into the home who believe in what you’re doing and will support and encourage you. Fear is subtle but contagious. I learned this lesson big time during my homebirth and know how to plan appropriately in the future.
If you’re trying to decide between a home birth and a birthing center, let me share with you that they’re ultimately pretty similar. The only difference is location. My current midwife practice does birth center births and home births. They have the same equipment at both. So it’s all about your preference for location.
Having a baby gives you a lot to think about and plenty of decisions to make. Don’t forget, this is your birthing experience. No matter what you choose to do, feel empowered to make the best decision for you and your baby.