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A Midwife Tells All

The practice of midwifery is older than the pyramids but still surrounded by misconceptions. We thought Amy Giles, a certified nurse-midwife with over 10 years of experience and 1,200 deliveries to her name, was the perfect person to answer our burning questions about labor, delivery and the practice of midwifery. Amy’s journey into midwifery began with the birth of her first child; she says the minute she met her midwife she knew she had found her calling. Amy dished on the ins and outs of midwifery, and told us why she thinks a midwife is the way to go. 
Q: What is a midwife anyway?
A certified-nurse Midwife goes through a four year bachelor’s degree program to be a nurse and then goes back to school for either a master’s or doctoral program with a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology. We’re on the same level as a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, so we can prescribe medications, do well-woman exams, oversee pregnancies, deal with gynecology issues and offer postpartum and newborn care.
Q: What is the difference between a midwife and a traditional OB/GYN?
The main difference is the philosophy. We see pregnancy as a natural and normal process – not a medical condition. By seeing it that way we reduce interventions and let moms do things naturally. We have the medical education to know when something is not right; at that point we either consult with an OB/GYN or go to the hospital.
Q: What do you think the benefit is of choosing a midwife?
There are a lot of studies that have been done in midwife versus traditional care. Midwives generally have lower c-section rates, higher natural birth rates and lower rates of infection. Mom and baby complications are the same with a midwife as an OB, so there’s no downside to having a midwife versus an OB. There’s a study that just came out by The American Association of Birthing Centers that looked at 16,000 women who delivered in a birthing center with midwives. It found a significantly lower c-section rate and a significantly lower cost in midwife-assisted births.
Q: Tell me about some of the feedback you’ve received.
What I hear people say is that they get plenty of time during the prenatal visits to talk. They feel like they are educated and listened to. During the labor they feel empowered; they feel like they can make decisions. Several dads have helped deliver babies. They are able to catch the baby and feel like they are more a part of the birth process.
Q: How are women cared for during pregnancy? Are they able to get regular sonograms?
Our visits are exactly like the visits you would have with an OB. The main difference is just time. We spend an hour with the moms for their first visit. They have the full time to ask questions and figure out what it is they want for their birth.
Q: What would surprise people most about midwifery?
The clientele. When I tell people I’m a nurse-midwife their response is, “I bet you get some crazy hippie moms.” But I think it’s really surprising that our clientele is a really well-rounded group of moms. We’ve had attorneys, physicians and professors, police offers and EMTs – people from all walks of life. They’re just looking for a different experience. We have well-educated moms of all ages. We also have some moms that are 17 and 18 who are afraid of hospitals or doctors and seek our care because they feel more comfortable.
Q: What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
A doula is not medically trained. Basically, they have training in how to be labor support. They have training in how different positions would help mom during labor, and massages and all that stuff. But they are not medically trained to take care of mom. A doula is fantastic if you want a natural birth in a hospital because it’s great to have an advocate.
Q: Can women give birth at home with a midwife?
Every birthing center is different. But, yes. That’s an option we have here.
Q: Is home birth messy?
My husband and I decided to have a home birth with our second and that was one of the fears that my husband had because he is a clean freak. It’s not really that messy. We use a drop cloth, like you would if you’re painting. We use that on the carpet and then we usually tell moms to put a drop cloth on their bed, or a waterproof mattress cover. And a lot of our moms deliver in the tub so the messiest part is down the drain.
Q: Why did you choose to become a midwife?
I was pregnant with my son and one of my friends told me about a nurse-midwife, so I went to see her. As soon as I saw her I thought, “I want to make people feel how she makes me feel.” She made me comfortable and gave me lots of information. It was an empowering experience. I decided that this is what I need to do with my life.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a midwife?
It’s so rewarding to watch people feel good about themselves. There’s just something about having a natural birth. Everyone tells you it’s impossible and once you do it you feel like you’re on top of the world. Especially with a first time mom, when they are so nervous because they haven’t experienced birth before. When they hold their baby, the joy on their face is so amazing it gives me chills. To watch someone be transformed from fear to power – it’s really cool.
Amy Giles runs the Allen Birthing Center with husband Jeff. For more information on the Allen Birthing Center visit allenbirthingcenter.com.