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When you think of the word “midwife,” you may think of an ancient practice that involves unmedicated home births. But midwifery has evolved greatly over the past decade to become more mainstream. Modern-day midwives are able to help women in distinct ways throughout their reproductive years resulting in a personalized partnership between midwife and mom.

Midwife literally means “with woman,” and that is the sole focus of the midwives at Connectus Health in Nashville. Every midwife on the Connectus team has a master’s degree in nursing or higher, making them all certified nurse-midwives (CNM), according to Anna Napier, CNM, of Connectus Health. “We can write prescriptions, diagnose medical problems, order imaging studies and labs, and interpret those results,” Anna explains. Midwives are licensed in all 50 states and are backed by the professional group American College of Nurse-Midwives.

nurse-midwife with mom and newborn

Modern-day midwives do much more than perform homebirths. Find out the many ways in which a midwife can assist with your reproductive needs.

Even though midwives have an intense medical background, they strive to provide a service that’s anything but sterile. “We aim to see each person as an individual, rather than simply another patient on our schedule,” says Holly Houston, CNM, also with Connectus Health. “The midwifery model of care emphasizes partnership with families.” The midwives at Connectus place special emphasis on creating a bond with a pregnant mom and her family. It is medical care given by highly trained professionals tailored to a specific mom’s needs and desires throughout her entire pregnancy and beyond. “We provide the best evidence-based information possible, and we work with you to make decisions about your care that best meet the needs of you and your family,” explains Holly.

That personalized care lasts throughout pregnancy and into the delivery room. Although midwives have been attending births in hospitals for much longer, Nashville hospital credentialing and medical staff voting bodies began permitting midwives just ten years ago. “It allows women to still choose a midwife but also keeps them in a hospital setting should an emergency arise,” explains Amber Anderson, CNM, a Connectus Health nurse-midwife. Having a midwife at the hospital during labor has major advantages for the pregnant mother, most notably a consistent presence of someone who has already been with them through every step of their pregnancy. “While we have a patient in labor, we stay at the hospital and generally are the person who performs the cervical exams, pushes with the patient when the time comes, and delivers the baby,” Amber explains. In fact, if it’s a low-risk pregnancy with no complications, there’s a good chance the mom won’t even need to see a doctor at the hospital.

Nurse-midwives at Connectus Health

Left to right: Anna Napier, CNM; Holly Houston, CNM; and Amber Anderson, CNM, are all certified nurse-midwives with Connectus Health. Images: Provided

Having a midwife during delivery can help a pregnant mom achieve her birthing goals, one of which is pain management. A common misconception about midwives is that they only perform unmedicated births, but this is not true. Holly explains, “Though midwifery education prepares midwives for these scenarios, in our practice, we work within the hospital environment in collaboration with our physician partners and offer a wide array of options for labor support and pain management.” The Connectus midwives are there to help moms with unmedicated births, but also if they want an epidural.

For moms who seek to have a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarian, the midwives at Connectus Health are able to assist by looking closely at the expectant mom’s medical history and then, according to Anna, assess the pregnancy and help manage or reduce any risks involved with a VBAC. “Choosing to labor after a C-section is a big decision, so we always individualize those decisions to each woman,” explains Anna.

In addition to being a partner for Mom and family during pregnancy and through labor and delivery, midwives also provide post-partum care — assessing blood pressure, checking incisions, and monitoring physical healing. At Connectus Health, the midwives are also available via telemedicine or in-person for post-partum concerns, particularly in terms of mental health. The team of midwives work with new moms to identify if any post-partum feelings that may need medical attention. This personalized touch can allow women to feel more comfortable opening up about any mood changes in the weeks following birth. “The postpartum transition is such a difficult time, so we try to be as helpful as possible with that,” says Anna.

While midwifery has traditionally been centered around maternity care, the field is expanding into all aspects of reproductive care. The midwives at Connectus also work with breast issues, pelvic pain, and diagnosis and treatment of infections, according “Some midwives even specialize in transgender care, urogynecology, infertility, among other things,” explains Anna.

Another area of growth in the field is that which allows midwives full practice authority. “What this means is that midwives can open up birth centers and practices without having to have another supervising provider,” explains Anna, adding that having more birthing centers will only help the maternity care system because it addresses the maternity provider shortage. Some states, like California, have these laws in place already, but midwives here in Tennessee are still dutifully working to pass similar laws in the Volunteer State.

Personalized care from highly trained individuals; that is a modern-day midwife. And the midwives at Connnectus Health are ready to be your partner throughout your reproductive years. To learn more about Connectus Health or to find a care provider, visit connectus.org.

This article is sponsored by Connectus Health.