The Midwifery Model of Care
Comfort and Care in Childbearing
I am a true believer in every woman having well informed choice over the care they receive during pregnancy, labor, and birth. We don't have that in America. Midwifery care and Homebirth are not even allowed in some states... so, I am writing about it. I am learning about women's needs throughout the childbearing time and I am sharing that information, because a lot of people need to know that midwifery is supportive of pregnancy, and how important that is to a childbearing woman and her family. The Holistic Midwifery Model of Care is vastly important during pregnancy. This article will lay out what it means to be cared for by a midwife throughout pregnancy, labor, and birth and why it is so essential to a positive birth outcome. I hope this description of Holistic Midwifery will help anyone who is trying to find a care provider for their transition into parenthood. It is proportionally different than the kind of care you can find at a hospital.
A care provider is someone who provides you care. You choose the person who will care for you throughout your pregnancy. I really like Penny Simkin's description of what good care throughout labor and birth looks like in her book The Birth Partner on page 31:
- A bond of love or friendship with the mother and a feeling of responsibility towards her.
- Familiarity with her personal preferences and quirks, and with the little things that soothe and relax her.
- Knowledge of what to expect - the physical process of labor, the procedures and interventions commonly used during labor, and when these procedures and interventions are necessary and when they are optional.
- An understanding of the emotional side of labor - the emotional needs of women during labor and the pattern of emotions they usually experience as labor progresses.
- Practical knowledge of how to help in various situations - what to do when.
- Flexibility to adapt to the mother's changing needs during labor. This is "leading by following" : how you help, and how much you help, is determined by the mothers needs and responses at the time.
Pregnancy and especially birth is a sensitive and vulnerable time for a woman. It is a time of life that will be remembered forever. You and your child carry the experience of birth for the rest of your lives. Choosing a Homebirth and a Midwife is one of the best things you can do for yourself to have a positive birth experience. The kind of experience that can be hung onto without a cringe. Care is so important. In order for a woman to feel comfortable and confident in her birth process she needs to be properly supported. A Holistic Midwife is trained in providing holistic care during pregnancy. Some people may not think that it is important for a woman carrying child to feel safe and they are right it is not necessary. Women can go to the hospital, have their babies, after a bunch of poking, prodding, cutting, stitching, IVs, and being away from home, being monitored by machines, and a whole bunch of people handling your newborn, leave the hospital, go home, and continue with their lives. Midwifery and holistic care offers much more to a woman and her family.
Midwives trained holistically view pregnancy as a physical, emotional, and spiritual process for a woman and family. They support all the angles of pregnancy: what is means to the woman to become a mother, how comfortable she is with her body, her fears of birth and motherhood, physical health and healing, and a comfortable environment for the new mother and infant; they also help and support the new father. A midwife is an expert in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes that happen during pregnancy and supports women through them. She teaches her clients to cope with the physical changes and informs them of the need for extra rest, food and comfort. She can help a woman manage her stress level simply by giving information and support. A midwife is there for her client. The midwife spends time with her client to build trust and bond, because a woman needs to feel comfortable with her pregnancy care provider. When a woman is in labor her body can more easily let go when she feels safe and comfortable. In those moments during labor when a woman feels that she can not go on, her midwife, her birth partner, is there, to give the woman whatever she needs from a laugh, a massage, the right words of confidence, or tea. This is what a midwife is for. She is there for her client. She is a birth expert and a loving support. She sees a woman as a whole person who needs to be supported as a physical, emotional, and spiritual being having a profound experience. She is a protector of the birth space, if something is causing the birthing woman stress it is the midwife's job to ease that stress. If there is a problem she will do her best to work with the woman through it and if need be transfer her to the hospital.
A midwife will know when it is out of her hands, however, many labor difficulties can be worked out with a midwife's skill, they spend years in training. Anne Frye the author of Holistic Midwifery, Volume 1, A Comprehensive Textbook for Midwives in Homebirth Practice, goes into the philosophy of Midwifery on page 14, "The midwifery model teaches women to trust pregnancy and birth as physiological processes, becoming attuned to what is normal in such a way that deviations from normal are easily recognized. The female body is seen as uniquely and inherently normal in its own right ...... Midwives focus on preventive care by emphasizing the importance of good nutrition and exercise and the elimination of substance abuse. They foster healthy family relationships to prevent complications which result from high levels of fear and stress. The Midwifery model of trust and confidence in the natural processes of pregnancy and birth and focus on birth as primarily a social (not medical) event create a haven of normalcy which counteracts the hysteria surrounding birth in our culture today." This type of trust of the normalcy of birth and life is exactly what women and infants need to thrive. Midwifery views pregnancy and birth as a completely normal bodily function. They understand how the female reproductive system eases a child into the world and they are expert helpers through the process. Pregnancy and childbirth is a profound experience and a good care provider will treat it as such.