Frequently Asked Questions
Our Jefferson Health Midwifery team is here to answer all of your questions, starting with the frequently asked questions below.
What is a certified nurse-midwife (CNM)?
CNMs are registered nurses with graduate education in midwifery. We have graduated from a nurse-midwifery education program and many of us also have experience as nurses. This education includes a university degree as well as hands-on clinical training with practicing CNMs. CNM also must pass a national certification exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
Midwives provide individualized reproductive care and maternity care throughout the prenatal, pregnancy, birth postnatal stages. We offer education, counseling and overall care focused on your physical, psychological and social needs.
What do midwives do?
Midwives provide emotional, physical and educational support before, during and after pregnancy. Our duties include assisting in labor, monitoring the overall health of parent and baby and providing followup care. We care for birthing individuals regardless of their preferences for pain management in labor and can help their patients navigate pain management decisions prenatally and during the labor process.
Midwives also provide health care beyond pregnancy and birth and provide general and reproductive health care throughout a person’s lifespan. These services include general health checkups and physical exams, gynecologic exams, contraception management, STI testing and treatment. CNMs are able to prescribe a full range of substances, medications and treatments, including pain control medications.
Midwives work in many different settings, such as hospitals, health centers, private practices, birth centers and homes. 95 percent of midwives in the United States work in hospital settings and most are CNMs. We are currently the only licensed midwives in Pennsylvania who allow our care to be covered by insurance.
Why should I choose a midwife for care during my pregnancy?
Midwives view pregnancy and birth as normal life events that can be a healthy time in your life. Midwives are experts in knowing the difference between normal changes that occur during pregnancy and birth and symptoms that require extra attention. We use evidence-based medical procedures when there is a specific concern for the health of you or your baby, and we work in partnership with physicians, if needed. In addition to medical care, we specialize in providing support and education. We are committed to offering health care that respects the goals and choices of you and your family.
As midwives, we emphasize shared decision-making, an approach in which you and your provider share information and agree on a plan of care together. As midwives, we are experts of reproductive health, pregnancy and birth. However, you are the expert of your body, values and life. Between us, we have all of the information we need to make a plan of care that will be best for you and your family.
What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
A midwife is a licensed medical provider with advanced education in reproductive health care and is qualified to prescribe medication, assess and evaluate the health and wellness of your pregnancy and baby, and has the skills and expertise to “catch” your baby at the time of birth.
A doula is a labor support professional who does not replace a midwife, but provides additional support to educate you about pregnancy and help you make decisions about the kind of care best suited for you. A doula can also serve as a hands-on resource for continuous labor support at home in early labor and at the hospital or birth center. A doula cannot give medical advice, but can act as an advocate and guide for you. While midwives are likely caring for multiple people in labor at once, a doula is there for you alone, and that kind of support can make all of the difference.
Midwives and doulas enjoy working together and understand how their roles complement each other to create the most supportive care environment for you.
Can I have a midwife care for me in the hospital or do I have to give birth at home?
Yes, a midwife can care for you in the hospital as long as your care falls within our scope of practice as we primarily care for people who do not have high-risk conditions in pregnancy. Here at Jefferson Health Center City Campus, our team of midwives covers the Labor & Delivery unit at the hospital 24 hours a day, 7 days a week along with a team of OBGYN residents, perinatologists and attending physicians. We will be present during your labor and birth and accessible to help guide you in your prenatal care as well.
If a midwife cares for me during my labor and birth, what are my options for pain management? Can I still get an epidural?
Yes, you can still get an epidural or use other forms of pain management. The use of pain management is your choice. We believe pain can be relieved in many different ways. We work closely with obstetric anesthesiologists at the hospital and can facilitate an epidural for you, if you desire. Midwives can also order intravenous pain medications, if you would prefer a milder form of pain relief. If you are hoping to cope with the discomfort of labor without using pain medication, we are experts in providing non-pharmacologic pain relief in labor.
How do midwives care for me once my baby is born?
Your midwife stays in the room after your baby is born to ensure your health is stable following delivery. If you need stitches after giving birth, the midwife ensures that the repair is completed in a safe and timely manner and that your family begins its bonding as soon as possible. During the immediate postpartum period and in the days and weeks following the birth, your midwife will take time to review the events leading up to birth, help you integrate your memories of the labor and birth experience and answer any questions you have about what took place during the birth process. Additionally, your midwife in the hospital makes rounds to spend time with you on the postpartum floor, to assess your health and wellness and to provide anticipatory guidance on what to expect as you adjust to changes in your body and begin your recovery period at home.
How do midwives support my mental health?
Midwives are trained as primary care providers equipped to carry out basic mental health screening, assessment, diagnosis, treatment and referral to other mental health providers and services. Midwifery care is holistic and grounded in an understanding of the social, emotional, cultural, spiritual, psychological and physical factors that influence reproductive health. If medication is best, midwives can prescribe medication and also collaborate with, and refer to, mental health specialists. We care deeply about the mental and psychosocial health of you and your family and will take the time to listen and make a plan to help you build resilience, heal wounds you are ready to address and accompany you as you prioritize your mental health.
How can I become a Midwife?
Visit Thomas Jefferson University's Midwifery Program to learn more about you can become a midwife.
Additional Midwifery Resources
Additional LGBTQ+ Family Planning Resources
Please speak with your provider or call us at 215-955-5000. You can also view additional Frequently Asked Questions about managing your Jefferson Health OBGYN visit.