Even though midwifery has been around for centuries, there is still a lot of misinformation about midwives. When deciding whether to have a midwife help you manage your pregnancy or gynecological care, it’s important to separate these myths from the truth.
We talked to UNC Health midwife Cassandra Elder, CNM, about seven misconceptions regarding midwives—and learned the facts.
Myth No. 1: Midwives provide care only during pregnancy and childbirth.
Midwives offer a full scope of care for women throughout their lives, including routine gynecologic care such as contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, obstetric services, and women’s preventive healthcare, such as screenings and vaccinations.
“Midwives are specialists whose duties extend far beyond helping women give birth,” Elder says. “Even if you’re not pregnant, partnering with a midwife for your gynecological care connects you with a trusted provider who can care for you throughout all stages of your life, from adolescence to menopause and beyond.”
Myth No. 2: Midwives have no formal education.
Most certified nurse midwives (CNMs) in the United States hold a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing. CNMs have to pass a national certification exam and renew their license every five years to ensure their knowledge is up to date.
Myth No. 3: You can’t get an epidural with a midwife.
Midwives support women in their choices for labor and birth. That means midwifery patients have access to the same pain relief options as patients seen by an OB-GYN, Elder says, including epidurals.
If you would rather have an unmedicated birth, a midwife can help you maximize your coping skills during labor and delivery with techniques such as massage and acupressure, using a birthing ball and rhythmic breathing for relaxation.
Myth No. 4: Midwives and doulas are the same.
A doula is a dedicated support person hired by a pregnant person or family to be with them throughout labor and delivery. Doulas are not medical professionals and cannot provide clinical care. Certified nurse midwives are licensed medical providers who diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions and prescribe medications in addition to delivering your baby.
Doulas play a complementary role to midwives (and obstetricians) because they can stay with you the whole time you are in labor, without the possibility of being called away to help another patient.
Myth No. 5: Insurance may not cover a midwife’s services.
Midwives are covered in the same capacity as their physician colleagues.
“As with any medical service, it’s a good idea to contact your insurer to confirm coverage and determine whether you need a referral,” Elder says.
Myth No. 6: Midwives only attend home births.
Most babies delivered by certified nurse midwives are born in a hospital, not at home, Elder says.
“You get a supportive birth experience within the security of a hospital environment,” Elder says. “Sometimes there are complications during birth that you did not anticipate, and a matter of minutes can make a big difference. We have pediatric and OB specialists immediately available if mom or baby need them.”
Myth No. 7: You can’t use a midwife if you’ve had a C-section.
Midwives are trained in helping women have vaginal births after cesarean sections, known as VBACs. Midwives also help patients who plan to have a C-section, bringing more holistic care in collaboration with their physicians.
“Midwives offer safe, cost-effective obstetric and gynecological care associated with a high degree of patient satisfaction,” says UNC Health OB-GYN A. Dawan Gunter, MD.
Looking for a midwife? Find one near you.