They often get looked down upon by conventional OB/GYNs, family physicians and other mainstream doctors, but midwives may actually be better equipped to safely deliver babies than the labor and delivery staff at your average hospital. This is according to a new review recently published in The Cochrane Library, which found that mothers who choose a midwife as their primary care provider throughout pregnancy are more likely to avoid experiencing pre-term birth or requiring outside care from an obstetrician during childbirth.
Researchers from both the United Kingdom and Ireland made this discovery after poring through data from 13 different trials that looked at pregnancy outcomes. Collectively, these trials included a total of 16,242 women, most of whom were considered to be at low risk of experiencing complications during labor. Rates of regional analgesia (epidural/spinal), caesarean delivery, instrumental vaginal birth (forceps/vacuum), spontaneous vaginal birth, intact perineum, preterm birth and overall fetal loss and neonatal death were all examined and compared among groups of women.
Compared to mothers who chose traditional hospital birth, those who stuck with a midwife were generally found to have a lower risk of complications in almost every evaluated category. Though midwife-attended births were found to last about 30 minutes longer than hospital births, on average, mothers who delivered their babies with the help of a midwife were less likely to require an epidural, deliver their babies early or lose their babies altogether. Other studies have also identified a decreased risk of requiring a caesarean section as another benefit of having a midwife.
As far as the health and well-being of the mothers is concerned, midwife-assisted births were also found to be a much more pleasant and happy experience for women. As opposed to medical-led and shared care, midwife care tends to be custom-tailored to the needs of individual mothers and takes a more holistic approach to the overall birthing experience. As a result, women who opt for midwife care tend to fare better than women who choose hospital care, as their personal needs are met better by someone who knows them intimately than by hospital workers who, in many cases, simply provide routine and standardized care.
“Unlike a hospital birth, a woman who chooses to birth with a midwife is subject to significantly fewer interventions,” explains a separate review of data on midwifery. “In hospitals, interventions are just a normal part of the care of laboring women and often, one intervention leads to another, causing a cascade of interventions that may lead to other problems or pose a risk to the health and safety of the mother and child. Midwives are more observant, acting as a guardian of safety, allowing your body to do what it needs to do, only intervening if necessary.”
Earlier study found that midwifery can actually lead to decreased mortality rates
Previous studies have come to similar conclusions, including a 2009 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), which found that midwife-assisted births are at least as safe as conventional hospital births, if not safer. According to the figures published in this particular study, having a hospital birth attended by a team of physicians is almost twice as risky, as far as mortality rates are concerned, compared to having a home birth with the guidance and care of a midwife.
“Doctors see every home-birth patient who had a complication, but we don’t see the ones that have these beautiful, fabulous babies at home who may breast-feed better or have less hospital-acquired infections,” said Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to U.S. News and World Report back in 2009. “There may be medical benefits” to midwife-assisted home births, she added at that time, along with her opinion that midwifery should be properly regulated.
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