by Martha Nieman, CNM
The term “midwife” means “with woman.” Traditionally, midwives cared for women only during childbirth. The modern certified nurse-midwife (CNM) works with teens and adult women, not only during pregnancy, birth, and lactation, but also with needs related to menstruation, sexuality, family planning, conception, vaginal health, health maintenance, and menopause.
A basic philosophy of midwifery care is that the woman has inner wisdom and self-knowledge that guides her healthcare choices. It is the CNM’s role to provide her with information, options and support, which empower her to make decisions and lifestyle changes that are best for her. The CNM provides care that seeks to promote health and prevent illness; to facilitate healthy, natural body processes; to give holistic care of body, mind, and soul of the woman in relation to her family, community and culture. The CNM takes extra time at health visits to listen to the woman and her needs, to educate, to develop a relationship, and to create an environment in which health and healing can grow. The CNM is present to offer ongoing support and guidance that is especially needed during labor and birth.
The CNM is an expert in caring for healthy pregnancies and the well woman. Research has shown that nurse-midwifery care of a woman at low risk for pregnancy complications is as good as a physician’s care. CNMs in the United States have a master’s degree in midwifery. While midwives in other countries and some American CNMs attend homebirths, most midwives in the United States attend birth in the hospital setting. This allows care following the midwifery philosophy to take place in a setting with quick and easy access to intervention should complications or emergencies occur. If problems arise during pregnancy or birth, the CNM consults with an obstetrician for recommendations for additional testing or treatment. If a woman’s condition puts her health or the health of her baby at high risk, or if complicated medical care is required, the CNM may need to transfer the woman’s care to an obstetrician. The same is true for non-pregnant women with gynecologic complications. The CNM consults with or gives the woman a referral to a gynecologist for complications. The goal is to match the woman’s need for care with the provider expert in that care.
The Luther Midelfort nurse-midwifery service was established in March 1999. The service has grown over these years and is flourishing. It is so rewarding to see the babies and families grow; to see women year after year at their annual health visits; and to contribute to their health. Our certified nurse-midwives are committed to the women and families we serve. We are thankful to them for sharing their experience and wisdom with us. We are honored that they have included us in the important passages of their lives. They will be a part of us for a lifetime.
Martha was the first certified nurse-midwife at Luther Midelfort beginning in March 1999. She was also the first midwife to obtain delivery privileges at the hospitals in Rockford, Ill. She earned her baccalaureate in nursing degree in 1975 and her master’s of nurse-midwifery degree in 1982 from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Since then, she has been a practicing certified nurse-midwife, obstetric clinical nurse-specialist, and nursing instructor at Northern Illinois University in obstetric and women’s health, and nurse for Northern Illinois Hospice. She has two daughters, and her other interests include fiber arts and spirituality.