Celebrating Midwives: How is a midwife different than an OB/GYN?

How is a midwife different than an OB/GYN?
Primarily Midwives are different in their philosophy, focus, and training.  Midwives believe pregnancy and childbirth are a healthy and normal life experience for most women.  They focus on health promotion, spending time listening to their patients needs, and getting to know their patients stories so they can take their health a step forward.  Pregnancy is such an opportune time to encourage positive changes in lifestyle, because women are so motivated to be healthy for baby’s sake.  For example, If a new mom is encouraged to make dietary changes during pregnancy, it could very possibly affect the lifelong health of her entire family.

The modern day certified nurse midwife trusts in a woman’s innate ability to have a baby.  Midwives believe birth usually works when it is undisturbed and it usually goes smoothly when the woman is in good health.  They are ever watchful for those red flags that show it is time to intervene, and if something does go wrong, they are able to identify the problem and act quickly to resolve it so mom and baby remain safe.  Their training is at the master’s degree level, with an emphasis on normal labor and birth; however, much of their training prepares them to recognize when something is not normal.

Midwives love to help women have a home-like experience in the hospital (seeing a mom give birth standing at the bedside, reaching down to grasp her new baby).  Sometimes though they sit through the long nighttime hours, rubbing backs and fetching water and juice, and have to make tough decisions that will cause their patient’s birth plan to veer off course.   When a laboring mom has an abnormal labor requiring medical intervention, they are grateful for the hospital in which they work, the medications that they have at their disposal, the nursing staff who work with such dedication to meet their patient’s physical and emotional needs, and the obstetricians who back them up.

How did I get here?  Never thought I’d be a tour guide!  My journey to midwifery evolved from my experiences as a registered nurse. I achieved my ADN (associates degree in nursing) from a “technical institute” (it wasn’t even a community college “back in the day”).  Despite working full time and having young children, I immediately enrolled at the University of Dubuque to begin classes for my bachelor’s degree in Nursing. I just knew that education was vital, and I wanted to grow in the profession. I was fortunate enough to have an R. N. position in labor and delivery at our local hospital, and that’s where I fell in love with new families.

The ten years it took me to earn my bachelor’s degree were steeped in growing my family, bonding with co-workers, and learning that there were so many more aspects of the birth process than just getting the baby out! Everyone came to the birthing unit with different expectations, fears, and hopes, but they all seemed to get treated in the same fashion. It didn’t sit well with me, and often I was the ‘rebel nurse’.  In addition, I felt like I was just getting a snapshot of these women- and I wanted more.

Midwifery started calling me when I realized that I could travel the pregnancy, postpartum, and years following with moms and dads. I could watch as their children grew, and possibly even provide healthcare for their girls as they grew. So, as my personal life went through a major upheaval, I started the two year program to become a Certified Nurse Midwife. It was a huge financial and time commitment, but I graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 2004. The philosophy of our program is to “serve the underserved,”and that’s what I wanted to do. However, I was unable to find a position in my hometown of Dubuque where I could catch babies. I was fortunate enough to meet a woman from the QCA at a meeting, and she hired me at Edgerton’s Women’s Health Care. I worked there for three years, and it was a wonderful entry into my profession. Due to the changing of their physician staff, I felt compelled to move on. OB-GYN Specialists (the Group) was gracious enough to hire me right away- and I’ve been there for the past 3 1/2 years.

The scope of our practice allows us to provide service for women from teens to menopause. Although our primary population is childbearing years, we envelope the entire range of well woman healthcare- so it’s more than the “snapshot.” Tailoring birth experiences to the parent’s expectation is my favorite part of midwifery. Although hospital birth adds a medical dynamic, it also provides a safety net that we rely on as CNM’s. Through education and support we become tour guides through many of life’s most incredible experiences. I have made connections with women that seem like more than just provider-patient relationships.

Being able to tour families through life destinations, and guide through the birth process has been the most satisfying career for me, and I do love the journey!

When shopping for health care, the bottom line is: be an informed consumer.

3 Responses to Celebrating Midwives: How is a midwife different than an OB/GYN?

  1. Camye October 9, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Pam delivered my last baby and was a ray of sunshine in the midst of it all! She was so encouraging and kept repeating how great I was doing. Words can not describe how grateful I am to have been surrounded by people that love me and supported my birth plan. Pam is an amazing woman!

  2. Heather October 9, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Pam is by far one of the most amazing midwives there are. Every time I go in, I feel like we are great friends. She treats me with kindness, compassion and understanding. She never made me feel rushed and has listened to my every concern (some irrational). Her words are encouraging and her demeanor amazing. My last appointment with Pam was just a regular annual exam and STILL she made me feel comfortable and chatted me with to see how I was doing. I love this. I love not being another chart, but a person. Thank you for making me feel valued!! She has a true calling in what she does!!!

  3. Jackie October 9, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pam! She delivered my first and only baby 2 years ago (almost to the day!). From my first visit with her, I secretly hoped it would be her who delivered our child. I loved all the midwives I worked with at the group, but I especially bonded with Pam. She truly made me feel like I was coming to visit a friend each time I saw her for prenatal visits. And she was SO amazing during my labor and birth experience. She was there with me the whole time..and it was a long labor, so this spoke to me in countless ways. She was so encouraging and even when the doctor had to intervene towards the latter part of pushing, she stood by our side and never let me give up! She was just as excited to find out what we were having (we chose not to find out beforehand) and seemed just as joyous as we were to discover we had a baby boy! I will never forget my experience with my midwives, and especially Pam! 🙂 Cannot say enough wonderful things about her. <3

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