Midwives fill a special role before, during and after birth

Midwives fill a special role during and after birth

  • Certified nurse midwives provide medical care, education and support before, during and after a baby’s birth.
  • Nurse midwives have the flexibility to offer longer appointments more often.
  • They can connect new moms to helpful resources and specialists as needs arise.

[3 MIN READ]

The role of the midwife has evolved throughout the years and their stance on promoting women’s health has grown exponentially. Although, certified nurse midwives are traditionally known for their hands-on care during the pregnancy and childbirth process, they also have advanced training and experience to care for women across the entire life span, including pap smears, contraceptive counseling and menopause relief. 

In fact, for many women, midwives offer the same services as an OB/GYN—with one notable difference. “We offer longer appointment slots than doctors can, and that means more time to provide medical care, education and support,” says Lisa Arnold, a certified nurse midwife who sees patients at Swedish. “This is especially beneficial for women who are pregnant or have just had a baby.”

Swedish has more than forty midwives caring for patients at three locations. Any woman who is planning to deliver at a Swedish hospital and has a low to moderate risk pregnancy can choose to have a midwife or an OB/GYN as their primary care provider. OB/GYNs provide back-up care in case serious problems arise, but they rarely need to step in.

Setting expectations during pregnancy

Like OB/GYNs, certified nurse midwives see women frequently throughout pregnancy. During the last trimester, they focus on what women can expect after the baby is born. This can include conversations about:

  • Physical challenges such as bleeding and pain management after delivery
  • Self-care, including getting enough hydration and rest
  • How to recognize the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression
  • Breastfeeding concerns
  • What the baby’s needs will be in the first few weeks of life
  • How to cope with infant crying, fussiness and colic
  • The importance of communication and teamwork at home

“We are very intentional in terms of helping women plan ahead, and making sure they have a supportive network in place,” Arnold says. "We don’t want anyone to feel alone or isolated.”

“We are very intentional in terms of helping women plan ahead, and making sure they have a supportive network in place,” Arnold says. “It’s important to have realistic expectations so that you don’t feel like a failure if you face challenges after your baby is born. We don’t want anyone to feel alone or isolated.”

Supporting mom and baby in the hospital

During the “big event”—labor and delivery—midwives help ensure the safety of both mom and baby. They provide medical care during and after birth and work to minimize interventions like C-sections and episiotomies that can slow down the healing process.

The day after delivery, the midwife visits mom and baby in the hospital room to identify any potential concerns and make any needed referrals to other providers.

  • All new moms meet with a lactation consultant in the hospital, and some may need a follow-up appointment after discharge. There are also breastfeeding support groups at several Swedish locations, where moms can talk with other moms and professionals for support and advice.
  • Some families may benefit from the Swedish postpartum doula program, which offers in-home support with light housework, overnight care for the baby and other non-medical services.
  • If a woman experiences incontinence after she returns home, the midwife can connect her to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor strengthening.

Moms leave the hospital with detailed information about postpartum care and a list of helpful resources to help them feel more informed, more connected, and less alone.

Following up with mom after she returns home

Midwives call new moms at home about a week after delivery, sometimes sooner. "Midwives have the flexibility to see mom and baby within a few days of delivery when it is helpful, and bring them back for additional appointments when needed," Arnold explains. "At the six-week mark, we also have a routine appointment to make sure mom is healing well both physically and mentally." 

The postpartum period offers its share of joys and challenges for every mother. But for some, the emotional challenges are significant. As many as 50 to 75 percent of new mothers experience the "baby blues" after delivery. Up to 15 percent of these women develop postpartum depression, which is more severe and lasts longer.

“As a society, we focus on how magical life with a new baby is, but we need to recognize that it can be difficult as well,” Arnold explains. "Our care is about providing emotional and educational support as women adjust to life with their new baby."

“As a society, we focus on how magical life with a new baby is, but we need to recognize that it can be difficult as well,” Arnold explains. “Midwives do depression screenings at every postpartum visit and can connect moms with resources and prescribe antidepressants.”

Midwives provide the kind of care that helps moms and babies establish a solid foundation for the future. “We are always there to meet medical needs,” Arnold says. “But just as importantly, our care is about providing emotional and educational support as women adjust to life with their new baby.”

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Find a nurse midwife

Find support for your birth experience with a Swedish midwife in our pregnancy and childbirth clinic and provider directory.

Related resources

Just had a baby and need support at home? Swedish doulas to the rescue.

Swedish launches first-ever hospital-based postpartum doula services

Do You Need a Midwife?

New Program Puts Moms-to-Be in the Center

Baby on the Way? Prepare with Education

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Whether you are seeking gynecological advice, need help navigating your way through the menopause stage of life or researching a recent breast cancer diagnosis, the Swedish Women's Health Team is committed to helping women find the information they need to live happy and healthy lives.

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