Get answers to frequently asked questions about midwives

Certified nurse midwives are women’s health care providers who often practice alongside ob-gyns, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in an office setting. Although midwives are best known for delivering babies, they see women of all ages for a range of health issues.

Here to answer some of the most asked questions is Sarah Benckart, CNM, a certified nurse midwife with UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services.

What Is a Midwife?

Midwives are women’s health care specialists who are trained to diagnose and treat a variety of issues women may encounter in their lifetimes. We can deliver babies and independently treat women’s health conditions. We follow established guidelines and evidence-based practices.

If something comes up in your pregnancy that isn’t quite normal, we consult with an ob-gyn or a maternal fetal medicine specialist and collaborate with them to manage your care. In rare cases, we may refer you to be cared for by physicians if we feel it is in the best interest of you or your baby.

In addition to prenatal care and childbirth, midwives also provide general women’s health care. This includes annual exams, preventive care, and contraception counseling.

What Makes Midwifery Care Unique?

Midwives are strong advocates for informed decision-making. During exams, we spend considerable time educating you about your body and any changes you’re experiencing. We help you decide what testing or medicines are right for you.

The choice to see a midwife is a personal one. Some patients prefer to see a midwife, but others may find seeing one of the doctors, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants on our team is a better fit for them.

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Do Midwives Only Do Home Births?

While some midwives do offer home births, the midwives at UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services deliver babies in the hospital. We also see expectant mothers in the office for their prenatal care.

Do I Need a Doctor to Deliver My Baby?

In most cases, you can choose to have a midwife deliver your baby. If something comes up during labor, midwives are trained to recognize problems and take appropriate action.

While midwives are licensed, independent providers, we work as a team with our doctor colleagues to ensure our patients receive safe care. We let the doctor know when we admit you, and we update them as your labor progresses. If there is any sign of trouble, we get them involved as needed. It is a seamless process for us to invite them into your birthing space to help get your baby into the world safely.

What Kind of Training Do Midwives Receive?

Midwives come from different educational backgrounds. The midwives who practice with UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services are all certified nurse midwives, which means we have degrees in nursing and midwifery. Some midwives may hold a doctorate in nursing practice or in midwifery.

Can Midwives Order the Same Tests as Doctors?

Midwives recommend and order the same prenatal testing, genetic screening, and ultrasounds as doctors do during pregnancy. We can order many common medicines, including prenatal vitamins, allergy medicine, birth control, and antibiotics. Midwives perform Pap smears and place contraceptive implants. We can order bone density screenings, mammograms, and colonoscopies.

If a Midwife Delivers My Baby, Can I Still Have an Epidural?

Absolutely, if that’s your choice. At UPMC, we have 24/7 access to anesthesiology services. We can order your epidural when you are ready for it and work with the anesthesiologists at the hospital to get it placed.

Midwives can also order intravenous pain medications if you need pain relief but don’t want to be completely numb.

If you want a more natural experience, midwives can provide labor support. This includes teaching you breathing techniques, encouraging you to change positions, and recommending pain relief methods like soaking in a warm bath. Midwives also can teach your birthing partner how to help you through labor.

We recognize the privilege of being with you during some of the most powerful and memorable moments of your lives. We strive to give you the type of birth you want. We will happily support and encourage you in whatever you choose. We’ll talk with you during your prenatal visits to learn the type of labor and birth experience you want, and we will work towards that goal with you.

Do Midwives Perform C-sections?

No. A midwife is not a surgeon. If it’s necessary for you to have a Caesarean section, one of our qualified ob-gyns will perform the surgery. Your midwife may be in the operating room to assist as you meet your new baby.

For procedures such as dilation and curettage, tubal ligation, or hysterectomy, your midwife will refer you to an ob-gyn to schedule the surgery.

Can I See a Midwife if I’m Not Pregnant?

Yes. The midwifery approach involves helping you make informed choices about your care and educating you on your options. Most often, women choose a midwife because it makes them feel relaxed and confident with their care. A midwife can help with:

  • Issues related to your menstrual cycle, including irregular, heavy, or uncomfortable periods.
  • Preconception counseling.
  • Decisions about birth control, including the pros and cons of different birth control methods.
  • STD testing.
  • Evaluating your personal health risks and working with you on prevention strategies.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.