Estimated reading time: 18 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
Twenty-one years ago, my husband and I were blessed with the birth of our first child. To say the least, it was intense, emotional and beautiful. We have since been blessed with three more equally intense, emotional and beautiful experiences with the birth of our next three children. All four of our children were delivered with the aid of a midwife instead of an OB-GYN. Our first two children were hospital births and the last two were born in birthing centers. Having a midwife for each birth always offered a sense of peace because we knew we had a measure of control. It is a decision that I do not regret and an option I wish more Black women would choose.
The person who oversees our pregnancies, labor, delivery and postpartum cannot be chosen haphazardly. Today, for Black women and their babies, it could be the difference between life and death. The benefit of choosing a midwife over a traditional physician is that midwives allow and encourage the mother to be squarely in the driver’s seat when it comes to her body and the details surrounding her birth experience. Women who desire to have a natural delivery and a low-tech birth experience should opt for a midwife because this philosophy aligns with that of midwives.
Midwives are typically not an option for women whose pregnancies are complicated or considered very high risk (multiple births, VBACs, etc.), though it depends on the specific issue and the level of training and experience the midwife has acquired. Midwives are not doctors – they are not trained or equipped to perform surgery.
There are different types of midwives: A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) is a licensed registered nurse who has completed an accredited graduate program in midwifery and has also been certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. A Certified Midwife (CM) receives the same training, education and certification in midwifery as a CNM but does not have a nursing background. A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is educated and completes their apprenticeship through The North American Registry of Midwives. Finally, there are Traditional (or Lay) Midwives who receive informal training and are not licensed or certified through an accredited organization. If considering a midwife, it is important to check the laws in your specific state particularly if you want to deliver in a hospital or birthing center. Whomever we choose we must exercise due diligence and research their education, training, experience and background.
Why choose a midwife instead of a traditional physician or obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN)? A midwife has more flexibility than a doctor who is restricted by hospital policies and regulations. Midwives give you options galore! There are a handful of doctors who put patient care first; but the reality is that most doctors have far too many patients (more money), making it impossible to spend the quality time necessary to offer more alternatives. A midwife on the other hand is not just a healthcare practitioner, she is also an educator and a counselor.
When it is time to be admitted to the hospital, it is not uncommon for expectant mothers who have traditional doctors, to spend the majority of their time with nurses instead of their doctor? She may only see nurses coming in and out of her room to examine her until she is about seven or eight centimeters dilated – then the doctor appears. Women often do not see their OB-GYN much during the laboring process; but she is there for the delivery and then gone again soon after – her primary role is to be present for the delivery only.
Midwives have been delivering babies long before a hospital was in a thought in the mind of the new man. Midwives pride themselves in specializing in the care of the mother before, during and after labor/delivery. The laboring mother has her midwife with her the entire time, providing her with both physical, emotional and spiritual support. She patiently assists and guides the mother as she gives birth; providing her with low-tech comfort measures to relieve pain and help labor to progress. Midwives take a limited number of patients with due dates spaced in order to ensure each woman receives individualized care throughout her pregnancy.
According to research, women who have a midwife working with them throughout their pregnancies have fewer recovery complications after delivery. Midwives arealso reported to have lower chances of preterm birth, fewer epidurals, episiotomies or assisted births. Midwives know how to induce labor naturally when necessary. Her goal is for the entire birth process to be natural; from the mother’s delivery position to anything she ingests.
Good midwives are committed to close personal rapport, ongoing client and family education, and promotion of individual responsibility for health. Through research, nurse-midwifery care has been shown to have good mother and baby outcomes, low incidence of cesarean sections (the cutting of the abdomen to retrieve the baby) and high levels of satisfaction by the patients and their families.
Some midwives administer home deliveries only; others deliver in birthing centers and depending on the state, some midwives deliver in hospitals. A midwife can also be a cost benefit for families. The actual cost is far cheaper than a typical delivery; they offer monthly payment plans throughout the duration of the pregnancy, accept health insurance and many also accept Medicaid. This will vary from state to state, city to city, and midwife to midwife. Sometimes the type of insurance one has; or lack thereof, will limit options. It is truly a shame that something as natural as childbirth costs so much. Quality healthcare is a human right and should be afforded to everyone regardless of income level. If for whatever reason a midwife is not an option where you are; make sure the doctor selected is well vetted and meets high standards and expectations.
Whomever we choose as our healthcare practitioner; it should definitely be a woman. No man, except our husband should be permitted to see us in such an intimate manner. In addition, another woman is more likely to know exactly what the expectant mother is experiencing and what she needs to get her through. Allah (God) created the female naturally compassionate, patient and long-suffering; which gives her the prerequisite attributes to care for a woman in travail. The Holy Qur’an reads“And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers – you knew nothing – and He gave you hearing and sight and hearts that you might give thanks” (16:78).
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)