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Midwives only work in homes and 4 other myths

Amy the super midwife
Flickr: Sandor Welsz

Today, International Day of the Midwife, is an opportunity to recognize midwives’ great work by tackling commonly held misconceptions about what happens in this profession.

Around the world, midwives have been delivering babies for centuries. Midwives around the world make the difference between a safe and healthy birth and even life and death for more than 300,000 women and children according to the World Health Organization​. 

Often seen as a relic of underdeveloped societies who lack traditional doctors, the practice is making a return in some stereotype busting ways.

In the US, the popularity has grown from 3 percent of births in 1989 to 9 percent since 2013. Still, a relatively low number, this could possibly be attributed to the many myths that surround the practice. 

Here, on International Day of the Midwife, are some myths around the practice that need to be busted.

1) MYTH: Midwives are only in developing countries

Midwife Photo for Body .jpgImage: HTeam

In the US there are over 11,000 trained midwives according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives. In the UK there are more than 22,000 midwives working to deliver newborn babies. Around the world, midwives account for delivering 43 percent of births in Africa, 37 percent in Europe, and 29 percent of births in South-East Asia according to UNFPA. Although midwives are common in both developed and developing countries, more support for midwives and access to the tools needed for successful maternal health is necessary.

2) MYTH: Midwives only deliver babies at home

midwives-myths-and-facts-BODY-01.jpgImage: Flickr: Eyeliam

False, midwives can deliver babies at home, but they also can deliver babies in birth centers and at hospitals.

3) MYTH: Midwives don’t allow their patients to use pain medication

midwives-myths-and-facts-BODY-02.jpgImage: Flickr: Chris and Jenni

False, whether a woman wants to use pain medication to ease the insurmountable pain that comes with child labor is entirely up the expecting mother. A midwife would tell you that they are there to support the choices of the mother, and if that includes delivering a child through water birth, or administering an epidural then so be it! (Note that neither midwives nor doctors can deliver the epidural, that is supposed to be done - in the US at least - by an anaesthesiologist.)

4) MYTH: Midwives are not educated

midwives-myths-and-facts-BODY-03.jpgImage: USAID

Modern day midwives must go through a lot of schooling. There are multiple ways in which they can become certified, all involving extensive training. One popular route is becoming a registered nurse, a process that can take upwards of four years, and then take an additional two to three years to complete a master’s degree and become a certified nurse midwife.

5) MYTH: Midwives cannot perform high-risk pregnancies

midwives-myths-and-facts-BODY-04.jpgImage: Ness Kerson/madNESS Photography for AusAID

It is not recommended that a midwife deliver a baby that is at high risk to their mother, in these cases it is best to have the baby in the hospital BUT the midwife can be there with the mother alongside of the doctor.

Having a baby is a big adventure for the mother and her child, and it is up to the mother to determine how and who she wants to assist her in the process. Midwives have been and are a valuable part of a broader system to keep mother’s and their children healthy and safe. So on today, a big THANK YOU to all midwives out there.