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What’s A Midwife?

You’ve heard about midwives, read about them, and maybe even watched an episode or two of the highly acclaimed British TV program, “Call the Midwife.” But let’s get real. It’s 2016, and we live in America - not in the fifties, in east end London, England. So what is it really like to work with a midwife?

All midwives, whether they are from a solo practice or from a group practice, pride themselves on working hard to help women stay healthy during their pregnancies. They provide a vast amount of information and education to their clients during pregnancy, labor and birth; and they do their best to instill confidence in a woman’s body and ability to bring life into this world. All in all, midwives are a reliable and continuous source of emotional support striving to keep mother and baby healthy and safe during this miraculous time of life.

The field of midwifery remains a mystery to many women, so we’ve outlined 7 facts about midwives. Unless your pregnancy is considered high risk, a midwife can be exactly the healthcare provider that you and your growing baby need.

1. Midwives have attended women during childbirth longer than doctors. They are independent healthcare providers and have been around since the beginning of time. Though they now have medical training, they have been caring for the expecting and laboring mom to comfort and coach her throughout the birth and postpartum experience. Philosophically, midwives do not see birth as an illness. Rather, they see it as a natural process that the woman’s body was created to do.

2. Midwives can have different levels of training. But they are all well educated, trained in accredited midwifery schools, and are licensed by the State they practice in. They can either be certified nurse midwives (CNMs) or Certified Midwives (CMs, which means they are not nurses), both of which are accredited and supervised by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Both groups practice in accord with the Standards for the Practice of Midwifery as defined by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. They can also be Certified Professional Midwives, (CPMs), a group that is set and regulated by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Midwives are certified state by state with their own regulating boards.

3. As long as you and baby are healthy, midwives can work with you in different settings. They can practice in hospitals, hospital birthing centers, free-standing birth centers, and at home. They carefully screen (and are trained to do so) women to uncover any health challenges and preexisting medical conditions. If they assess a high risk factor, they will refer their client to the appropriate healthcare provider -- be it an obstetrician, a perinatologist, a genetic counselor or other medical professionals. That said, midwives can also team up with obstetricians to co-manage pregnant women who may develop higher risk medical conditions like gestational diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension. Midwives do not perform c-sections, though some of them get trained and credentialed to assist in the procedure.

4. Midwives strive to establish positive, nurturing and trusting relationships with their clients. Since they see birth as a natural process, they believe women are strong and have the power from within to birth their babies. These ideas are discussed openly and enthusiastically to help women believe in themselves so that they are confident that childbirth is something they are innately capable of mastering. To them, a successful birth can be vaginal, through a c-section, and with or without pain relief medications -- a healthy baby and mother are ultimately their primary goal.

5. Unless you deliver at home, a midwife can prescribe an epidural or other kinds of pain medications. Both CNMs and CMs have prescription privileges in the states where they hold a license. What’s more, midwifery care is actually reimbursed by most health insurance companies.

6. Midwifery care goes beyond pregnancy and birth. Midwives can help you with breastfeeding and with your baby’s initial latch right after delivery. You’ll also see your midwife at your postpartum visit, roughly 6 weeks after giving birth. Midwives see women for annual well-woman visits, contraception counseling, VBAC counseling, (vaginal birth after cesarean section) and twin pregnancies -- though VBAC and twin pregnancies are co-managed with an obstetrician. If you had IVF or IUI, you can work with a midwife barring other high-risk medical factors.

7. Midwives can also be men! While you may think of a midwife as female, midwifery schools are also graduating male midwives. In fact, 2 percent of midwives are men, and the number keeps increasing.

The American College of Midwives website can provide you with more information about midwives and can help you find a midwife in your area. The New York City Midwives website is a great resource to find a local New York City midwife. Check them both out!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

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