Allison Tran, a certified nurse midwife, hands a newborn baby to their mother.
Allison Tran, a certified nurse midwife, loves caring for women as they give birth and go through the stages of their lives. (Taylor Ballek | Spectrum Health Beat)

Education, guidance and advocacy—Spectrum Health certified nurse midwives do it all while working with women before, during and after pregnancy.

There are many misconceptions about midwives and their accreditations, as well as what they offer hospital systems and how they manage the birthing process.

Here, in collaboration with GR Kids, we myth-bust five common fallacies.

Myth 1: Midwives do not have formal medical training.

Spectrum Health certified nurse midwives (CNMs) have extensive training.

All the midwives at Spectrum Health are CNMs, which means they hold both a nursing degree and a master’s or doctoral degree in midwifery. CNMs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education and must pass a national certification exam.

Midwives are prepared to take care of women, every step of the way.

Myth 2: Midwives only attend home births.

While some midwives do perform home births—in 2019, 8% of births attended by CNMs/CMs occurred in homes—most provide care in hospitals or birthing centers.

Spectrum Health has the largest hospital-based midwifery program in West Michigan.

Working with a CNM in a hospital setting provides personalized care, low-intervention births, and access to expert resources should the need arise. Spectrum Health has the only Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in West Michigan, housing maternal fetal medicine and neonatal specialists.

“We offer the full scope of care, which includes comprehensive prenatal care, support during labor and postpartum follow up,” Sarah Kent, CNM, said.

“There’s continuity in who you see,” the Spectrum Health nurse midwife said. “We have six [CNMs] in our office and we all work together. I love the relationship base that midwifery provides. I love being there for delivery, and being able to follow up postpartum.”

Myth 3: You have to choose between a midwife and an OB/GYN

It’s true that CNMs and OB/GYNs are trained and accredited differently and provide different services, but at Spectrum Health, they work together every day.

In terms of pain management, both CNMs and OB/GYNs have access to a full array of pain-relief options to support their patients.

“We [the CNMs] provide care to women with low-risk pregnancies, but if an emergency were to arise, we have collaborating obstetricians and a NICU team available,” Kent said. “We have really good support.”

Kent and her fellow CNMs highly value their relationship with Spectrum Health OB/GYNs and other physicians, and routinely collaborate with various teams to make sure each birthing experience—mom and baby—has the best support possible in any situation.

“It’s all about providing individualized, evidence-based care while respecting the birth wishes of the families we care for,” Kent said.

Myth 4: Birthing with a midwife is not as safe.

Birthing with a midwife has a positive impact on birth trends and outcomes.

Recent studies have shown that women birthing with midwives were 23% less likely to have a premature birth, 19% less likely to miscarry before 24 weeks of gestation, and less likely to use an epidural during labor and/or have an episiotomy or instrumental birth.

The reason? Women tend to feel more at ease with a provider they know and trust in the delivery room, which increases positive birth experiences.

Myth 5: Insurance will not cover birthing with a midwife.

Most insurance will cover the cost of a midwife working with a hospital system. Check with your insurance to understand all your options if you are interested in birthing with a midwife.

Certified nurse midwives add an individualized dimension of care and quality to a birth plan and experience.

At Spectrum Health, they also offer well-women services including family planning, routine gynecological care, menopause management and more, so women can continue to see their midwife as they navigate each life stage.