Midwives offer a personal touch to the process of giving birth

mother-kissing-her-new-born-childFor as long as women have been giving birth, midwives have been there, competently handling the situation, coaching the expectant mom and helping to ensure the baby’s safe transition from the womb to the world. Although midwives of old might not have had formal training, in 1902 a Midwives Act was passed, requiring formal qualification before the midwife was allowed to practice.

Midwifery has come a long way since then, as Sabrina Nitkowski-Keever, director of Maternal Child Health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, can attest. “There are different kinds of midwives: certified nurse-midwives have a nursing degree and training in midwifery, like our team at NYP/Hudson Valley Hospital; lay midwives (who are not nurses but who have had direct training in midwifery outside of the nursing school setting); and certified professional midwives (independent practitioners who meet the certification standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives).

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“The decision to go with a midwife will depend on a number of factors — the kind of experience the mother wants, where she wants to give birth, if the pregnancy is normal or high risk, and what services insurance will pay for,” says Nitkowski-Keever. (Individual insurance plans vary, so it’s best to check ahead of time.) Midwives usually limit their care to low-risk pregnancies and many offer the option of deliveries in homes, at birthing centers or hospitals.

Midwives form close relationships with the expectant mom and are usually involved in every step of her pregnancy journey — one that spans from prenatal to postnatal care. Says Nitkowski-Keever, “They tend to focus on the natural aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, spending time talking with patients, and helping them understand and cope with emotional issues.”

A woman considering a midwife-assisted birth experience should always seek a licensed midwife who is affiliated with a local hospital. Preterm labor and premature delivery are just some of the things that endanger a child born too soon, and physicians are always available to assist with any unexpected complications.

The Maternity Center at NYP/Hudson Valley Hospital

“Despite the options available to them, most women still prefer delivering in a hospital setting,” Nitkowski-Keever points out, and also notes that NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital’s Maternity Center is at the forefront of providing expectant mothers with techniques and amenities to make the experience as safe, natural, and pleasant as possible. Labor and Delivery Suites pair the comforts of home with advanced equipment and new mothers later move to spacious private rooms with a hotel, rather than hospital, atmosphere. “Our goal,” she says, “is to enhance the pregnancy and birth experience.”

All the labor rooms at NYP/Hudson Valley are equipped with Jacuzzi tubs to help ease labor pains,” says Nitkowski-Keever. For women opting for natural childbirth, warm water can be a wonderful relaxant and ease tensions that can interfere with labor. The tubs are designed so that women can try different positions during labor, and the whirlpool jets can be turned on as needed to hit pressure points.

Family can visit the new mom 24/7 with the mother’s permission, and the hospital allows up to three support people in the birthing room to assist the mother while she is in labor. “Our goal, regardless of whether an expectant mother chooses a doctor or a certified midwife to handle the birth, is to ensure the she has the support she needs during this special time,” says Nitkowski-Keever.

NYP/Hudson Valley Hospital is designated a “Baby Friendly” hospital by Baby Friendly USA, the accrediting body for the World Health Organization’s initiative to encourage mothers to breastfeed their infants.

For more information, visit nyp.org/hudsonvalley or call the hospital’s Maternity Center at 914-734-3257.

This story is provided and presented by: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.