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Many people still picture midwives as women with little training who assist other women through labor and childbirth — but only if it's a home birth. That perception is wrong on several counts.
First, today's Illinois midwives are advanced practice nurses (nurses with master’s degrees) who specialize in midwifery. They also hold state licenses as certified nurse midwives (CNM). While midwives do have a special interest in caring for low-risk patients throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, they also provide a range of women's health services, such as pap smears and breast exams.
Secondly, many CNMs deliver their patients' babies in hospitals. That's the case with the CNMs at Midwifery and Women's Health of Elmhurst Clinic, independent practitioners who deliver babies at Elmhurst Hospital.
Molly Klatt, who is the mother of two-month old Veronica and two-year-old Noah, chose this midwifery practice for both births.
"I love my physicians but I like the midwives' philosophy that birth for uncomplicated cases is a natural, normal process, not a medical procedure," she says. Klatt speaks from an interesting perspective – she’s also a registered nurse in Elmhurst Hospital's Labor and Delivery unit.
Klatt chose a drug-free labor and delivery both times that she gave birth, and she labored in a tub of warm water.
Klatt's midwife for her son's birth was Mary Saracco, CNM, who says, "In addition to being there for the delivery, the midwife is with the mom-to-be throughout labor, offering words of support; providing complementary therapies, such as massage or acupressure; and sometimes helping mom access water for pain relief in labor."
Another myth about midwives is that epidurals and other medications are off the table. But the midwife is available to discuss all the patient's options. She may educate the mom about natural approaches to pain management, and recommend prepared childbirth classes, but if the mother decides on an epidural, the midwife will call the anesthesiologist.
"We believe the mom should have self-determination about the process of having her baby, as long as it's a safe option," says Saracco. "Studies support that midwifery can be a safe and effective alternative. For example, our practice has a 10 percent c-section rate, which is far below the national average,” she adds.
The midwives devote a lot of time to patient education, covering the pros and cons of various interventions: induction of labor, whether an IV is needed in labor, when labor is safe after a c-section, intermittent versus continuous fetal monitoring, etc. This information helps the mom develop a personally meaningful and safe birth "wish list" (aka birth plan).
When Klatt's son was born, she was a telemetry nurse on the hospital's cardiac unit. She says her experience giving birth to Noah inspired her to make the transition to Labor and Delivery.
"The midwives were handling the moms with such respect and kindness it opened my eyes to how wonderful family birthing could be,” says Klatt. “They had a huge impact not only on my family, but also on my career."
Learn more about midwifery at Edward-Elmhurst Health, or call 331-221-9009 for more information.
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