Forget the stereotype of gray, scraggly hair, denim jumpers and home deliveries: nowadays more and more midwives go back to school for advanced degrees so they can deliver babies in hospitals like Resurrection Health Care’s St. Mary's Hospital.
For them, and many expectant moms, it's the best of both worlds. Patients can have a close relationship that begins with the prenatal care midwives provide, but can deliver with the assurance that physicians are just minutes away should complications develop.
The University of Illinois College of Nursing school has a program dedicated to training such health care professionals, and Mary Bauer is among those hospital midwives who do the training.
There’s renewed interest in the professions, she says, as women are beginning to realize there are many ways to give birth. In fact, they’ve just opened a special clinic on Chicago's west side that's staffed just with certified nurse midwives.
Bauer said she’s clear about the importance of obstetricians, especially when surgery is necessary, during birth emergencies. But when it’s an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, she points out that midwives are just as well trained as a physician.
"The actual pre-natal care is virtually identical, there isn't really any difference in the care provided by certified midwives and physicians," said Bauer. "Our obstetrical training is virtually the same. We have to be, as midwives, prepared for emergencies just like a physician, so the medical care part of it is identical."
What's different, said Bauer, is that midwives spend more time with mom during every stage of her pregnancy… and are there throughout her labor. And whether it’s lighting candles, playing music.. or something else.. Bauer says they’re open to doing things a little differently.
"I had a patient not long ago who was standing in her bed, and jumping up and down," said Bauer. "And she was in her own element. No one disturbed her, and she was able to get the baby turned around. It was a posterior baby meaning the back of the head was on the mom's spine and it needed to come down. And if she had been lying down, on her back, that baby would never have come down."