Should I use a midwife?

One very important question that many pregnant women today forget to consider is whether they should enlist the services of a midwife to help them through their pregnancy. To some, midwives seem like an antiquated or superfluous aspect of pregnancy. Others fear the costs associated with the added medical counsel, and still others just aren't sure what, exactly, a midwife is and whether his or her services will facilitate their pregnancies.

Midwives exist to provide personal care unique to your pregnancy, and to make the prenatal and labor periods easier. In order to decide whether using one is right for you, consider the following information.

What's the difference between a midwife and an obstetrician?
One of the main reasons most women don't consider using a midwife is because they fear it means they won't have the benefits of a doctor as well, but that isn't true. Midwife care is, in general, not intended to be a replacement for the care of a doctor, but rather a complementary service that gives you and your baby an increased chance of a complication-free pregnancy and birth.

A midwife is not a doctor, but rather a highly trained, highly experienced and often certified professional. They work to determine the individual needs of each woman, and collaborate with other medical professionals to ensure that you receive the best, most customized care. They'll help you discover which behaviors will best facilitate your baby development. Because they accept fewer patients, they're usually able to offer much more time and attention to each mom-to-be. If you choose to have a midwife, however, you can still retain the services of an obstetrician.

What are the benefits of using a midwife?
After noticing a spike in women reporting the use of a midwife during pregnancy, a recent Australian study by the University of Sydney looked at the benefits of including a midwife as part of a woman's prenatal care plan. Because midwives are generally able to provide more personal, individualized care, the instances of labor and birth complications is much lower.

Researchers found that women were 3 percent less likely to require a cesarean section. Women who do use midwives tend to have shorter hospital stays after giving birth, too. Finally, women who reported using midwives during their pregnancy felt more positive about the experience in general.

Is hiring a midwife expensive?
Another reason that many women fail to consider incorporating a midwife into their prenatal care is their beliefs about the costs of such services. What most don't realize is that women who use midwives generally save money.

According to The American College of Nurse Midwives, as of January 2011, Medicare covers 100 percent of the costs of midwife care using the physician-fee schedule. While you may be asked to spend up to 20 percent out of pocket, this expense should be reimbursed. Additionally, the university's study showed that women saved an average of $536.26 for delivery-related hospital expenses. That adds up to a lot less money for a lot more individualized care.

There are many reasons to consider using a midwife, but the choice is a personal one. Many women prefer to centralize their prenatal care with a single medical professional - their obstetricians. Others see an additional advisor as somewhat of a nuisance, especially if their schedules are already full. It's up to you to decide what's right for your pregnancy.

Did you use a midwife for a past pregnancy? Share your stories in the comments section!