So you’re settling into the new season of “Call the Midwife,” seeing how Tom and Nurse Crane (spoiler alert!) cope with Barbara’s death (so sad) and how Trixie will fare after her return to Nonnatus House. You love all the fictional midwives and respect how much they care about their patients. But did you know that you can get medical care from a real-life, certified nurse midwife, even if you’re not pregnant?
It’s commonly assumed that midwives only care for women who are pregnant or giving birth, but that’s simply not the case, says Yasmeen Bruckner, M.S.N., C.N.M., a certified nurse midwife who sees patients at the Northwest Hospital Midwives Clinic.
“Midwives care for women throughout life, meaning we can help with periods, menopause transition, contraception needs and more,” she says.
Midwives are specialists in women’s health
Midwives are trained to be knowledgeable about how women’s health needs change at different stages in life, Bruckner says. Young women might have questions about what’s normal and what’s unusual with their period or what kind of birth control is right for them. Some women have questions about infertility or starting a family; others may wonder what to expect as they get older and their bodies change.
Bruckner helps her patients with all of these issues and more. She also does things like STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing, pap smears and breast exams.
Bruckner’s favorite part of her job is getting to know her patients well and seeing them as they grow and change.
“It’s a long-term relationship, a building of trust and knowledge about that person and their life, family, goals and beliefs,” she says.
Midwives are highly trained
Another misconception about midwives? That they don’t have enough training, which just isn’t true, Bruckner says. For her education, she earned her master’s degree, logged many hours in clinical training and had to pass a board exam to receive her license. This is typical of most nurse midwives and comparable to nurse practitioners.
“Nurse midwives have a designation similar to nurse practitioners, and most of us practice in hospitals. It’s different from professional midwives, who have different training and focus on caring for pregnant women,” she says.
Bruckner enjoys working in a hospital because it gives her the opportunity to easily collaborate with other women’s healthcare providers — which in turn gives her patients an even more personalized experience.
This collaboration helps with patient safety, too, especially where labor and delivery are concerned. A 2018 study found that the more integrated midwives are in maternity care and childbirth, the better the outcomes are for new moms. In that study, Washington was the highest-ranking state for positive outcomes as a result of midwife integration, meaning fewer moms experienced C-section, preterm delivery and other complicating factors.
This is encouraging information to have, especially since, in certain parts of the country, complications from pregnancy result in higher maternal death rates than have been seen in the recent past.
Midwives are all about empowering patients
One reason why midwives are so helpful is that they’re intimately involved in a woman’s care from the beginning of her pregnancy, and they often have longer appointments and more time to get to know their patients’ particular health situations, Bruckner says.
And, should a complication arise, midwives are more than prepared to handle it.
“If things become high-risk or if complications arise, we have tools and training to address that, and we have our obstetrician colleagues who we can consult with or transfer someone’s care to,” Bruckner says.
This also means that midwives like Bruckner who work in hospitals can see women who have existing health issues, like high blood pressure, or issues like gestational diabetes that might make their pregnancy a little riskier. This can be a great option for women who want to have as natural a birth as possible but need a little extra care, Bruckner says.
“If someone is planning an out-of-hospital birth but something happens that prevents them from having a home birth, they can come to us and we can support them,” she says.
Patients planning a home birth should have a plan with their provider for this contingency.
This same philosophy — meeting patients where they’re at — is how Bruckner approaches care for all her patients, not just pregnant ones. It’s part of what makes midwifery special.
“The people who see us feel empowered to make choices. We honor their choices and what they think is best for their health. When people feel that kind of support to make their own decisions with good information, they feel comfortable coming back,” she says.
So if you’re looking for a healthcare partner who will support you and help you live your best life, go ahead, call a midwife.