Natural Healing

Midwifery offers natural approach to pregnancy and birth

| January/February 2001

  • Now that wireless heart-rate monitors are available, there’s no need to stop your exercise routine to check your pulse.

  • Many midwives recommend massage during pregnancy for general well-being.
  • Susan Wilmot, owner of Splendor Mountain Spa in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, performs watsu on a client.
    Photo courtesy of Casey A. Cass

In a society with increasing demand for “alternative” or integrative medical treatment, midwives are playing a leading role. Whether they work in traditional ways outside the medical system or with physicians, midwives use a variety of techniques to assist with the processes of pregnancy and birth.

As inheritors of an ancient tradition, many midwives naturally tend to use alternative practices. As practitioners of a new profession, certified nurse midwives are often sensitive to the public demand for their services. Both lay and certified midwives may draw on practices such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, and massage. Some refer women to other specialists such as chiropractors or acupuncturists.

Although some midwives trained as nurses stay within the medical system and don’t use alternative treatments, others, such as Pamela Truzinski of Jewell, Oregon, incorporate integrative medicine into their practices in order to treat the problems of pregnant and birthing women in nurturing ways. Truzinski is a direct-entry midwife (one without nursing training).

Although Truzinski works mainly with naturopathic doctors, many other midwives work directly with obstetricians and gynecologists throughout a woman’s pregnancy.

A growing force for change

According to the Midwives Association of North America, there are now 4,000 direct-entry midwives and 450 certified professional midwives (certified through the North American Registry of Midwives) practicing in the United States. The Bureau of Health Statistics study reported that there were 6,534 certified nurse midwives in 1996. The American College of Nurse Midwives has 5,000 members who are currently in practice. State laws now determine such things as whether midwives can deliver babies at home or in hospitals and to what degree they may or may not be supervised by physicians. Each midwife then makes her own decisions about how to work within those parameters.

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