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Nurse-Midwives Becoming Popular Again

By Michael Lasalandra
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent


Seven years ago, when she was pregnant for the first time, Carla Tonks of Amesbury made the decision to have her baby delivered by a nurse-midwife. She was sick and tired of waiting forever in her ob-gyn's office only to get 10 minutes with him.

She was told about the nurse-midwife program at Anna Jaques Hospital in nearby Newburyport, so Tonks met with them and made the switch. Her first child, Molly, was delivered by nurse-midwife Lisa Walsh.

Tonks and her family moved to North Carolina for a while, where they had a second child, also delivered by a nurse-midwife. Then they moved back to Massachusetts, and when she became pregnant for the third time, Tonks returned to Anna Jaques (now an affiliate of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston) and had Walsh deliver her son Ozzie, born just a few weeks ago.

"They can spend more time with you," Tonks says of her preference for nurse-midwives. "I've been very happy with them."

Midwives, which were the rule until the mid-20th Century, are becoming more popular again. According to a report by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 11.3 percent of vaginal births and 7.6 percent of all births were attended by either certified nurse midwives (CNMs) or certified midwives (CMs) in 2009. The number has risen each year since 1989. Certified midwives are not nurses but have Master's degrees.

Anna Jaques offers nurse-midwives. Either type provides care to women during pregnancy, labor and birth, as well as during the postpartum period. They typically handle low-risk pregnancies.

"We do all the check-ups, all the prenatal care," says Walsh, one of five nurse-midwives on staff at Anna Jaques. "If a complication arises, we consult with the physicians. They are always on call. If the patient needs a C-section, the physicians take over. But we are still in the operating room."

Tonks said she did develop high blood pressure during her most recent pregnancy, but she decided not to transfer to a doctor's care.

"The nurse-midwives can take on a lot more than you think," she says.

Another plus was that over the course of her pregnancy, Tonks developed close relationships with all the nurse-midwives at the hospital, so if Walsh, for some reason, was unavailable at the time of delivery, Tonks would still know the person performing the delivery in her stead.

Learn more: Nurse-midwives & obstetricians available at Anna Jaques Hospital »

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted September 2012

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0475

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