Midwives – A Unique Birthing Approach

Pregnant woman talking to midwife

By Katie Coleman

Midwives are trained health professionals who have the skills and expertise to help women maintain healthy pregnancies and experience optimal births and recoveries during the postpartum period. They provide women with unique care to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. Midwifery is a woman-centered model of maternity care utilized throughout the world, with the best maternal and infant outcomes.

Here in Western New York, Catholic Health is front and center in the movement to provide women with this empowering and individualized alternative. Catholic Health has three birthing hospitals, two of which have certified nurse midwives. Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo has about 3,500 births per year, followed by Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo (Mercy) with 2,500 births per year and Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston with about 425 deliveries per year. “We have midwives at both Sisters and Mercy Hospitals,” said Aimee Gomlak, vice president of WomenCare at Catholic Health. She adds, “Right now, 25% of the deliveries at Mercy are performed by midwives, where we have the lowest c-section record of all of the local providers with a 90 percent vaginal delivery rate.”

“For ages, midwives studied, attended, and respected birth as a normal event in a women’s lifetime,” said East Amherst resident Jennifer Field, a Mercy certified nurse midwife. Field wants women to feel empowered to deliver their babies with confidence, while having a more personalized birth experience, but emphasizes that midwifery is an option for women with a low risk for complications.

Field says, “Once, I was helping a young, scared, non-English speaking patient during the pushing stage of labor. I took the time to calm her and find someone who could speak her language, reassuring her she could do this. I believe it made all the difference in the world for her and her baby.”

Primarily known for prenatal and pregnancy care, midwives also support traditional pain relief for women, including an emotionally supportive birth environment, mobility during labor, Jacuzzi tubs and epidurals. “Midwives at Catholic Hospitals consult with and refer patients to OB/GYN physician specialists if a high risk medical condition develops during pregnancy, or if a C-section or other surgical intervention is required,” said Field.

Midwives at Mercy work closely with hospital nurses and doctors for a team approach to the birthing experience. They complete a three-year reeducation process. All nurses, nurse midwives and doctors are experienced in high-risk birthing and the most current evidence-based practices, including electronic fetal monitoring certification. “Understanding each other’s decisions creates better outcomes,” says Gomlak.

Catholic Health is sponsoring a free community program entitled, “Ask the Mercy OBs and Midwives Anything: Pregnancy, Birthing & Becoming Parents” Thursday, April 7 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Michael’s Banquet Facility, 4885 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg. The program is open to women and families who are expecting or thinking about becoming pregnant. Refreshments will be served. Call 447-6205 or visit chsbuffalo.org/events to reserve your spot.

WNY Resource:
Learn more about Catholic Health System’s WomenCare at http://www.chsbuffalo.org/womencare, and about midwives at http://www.chsbuffalo.org/Services/OBGYN/Midwifery. Catholic Health also offers childbirth and many other classes for new moms. Call 706-2112 to learn more.