Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly do midwives do?

Certified nurse-midwives have a graduate degree in nursing with a specialty in midwifery, and provide care for women throughout their life. We provide annual exams, birth control, other gynecologic services, pre-natal and birth care, primary care, and immediate newborn care.

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How old is the midwifery program at Vanderbilt?

The nurse-midwifery practice at Vanderbilt began serving women in 1995. The first midwives at Vanderbilt attended births at a hospital in a rural county west of Nashville, and subsequently moved to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1997.

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Describe a typical day in the life of a midwife...

Each of our two clinic sites has a midwife on call for in-hospital patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The midwife on call for the day will "round", or visit, every woman in the hospital who has recently given birth. She will also attend to any laboring woman on the labor unit, and will answer phone pages throughout her call time -day or night- from women who think they may be in labor, or have problems that arise after office hours end. The midwives who are not on call are scheduled at the clinics during the week days, to see women for scheduled appointments.

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How do I choose between a midwife and a traditional obstetrician?

Women may choose whether they want to see a midwife or physician either before or after they become pregnant. Since midwives provide services for women throughout their life, many women are already in the care of a midwife when they become pregnant. Women choose to see a midwife for a variety of reasons. Many times it is because women recognize that midwives value a woman's role in her personal health care decisions, respect her wishes and desires for her pregnancy and birth experience, and value the involvement of her loved ones. Midwives work in collaboration with physicians of varying specialties when indicated, and co-manage many situations that may arise in a woman's lifetime.

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What is the tradition of midwives?

Midwifery is an ancient art; midwives have cared for women throughout every time period and culture. Today, in many countries, midwives are the primary care providers for women and their babies. 80% of births world-wide are attended by midwives. In the U.S.,approximately 7% of births are attended by midwives. Care delivered by midwives has been proven to result in excellent outcomes for women and babies, and it is cost-effective. Midwives seek to empower women in all aspects of their lives, but especially in regard to their health care decisions.

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What are the advantages of choosing a midwife?

Midwives view the seasons and changes of a woman's life as normal, rather than as disease processes. These include menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, and birth. We facilitate the normal, natural process of each of these changes, rather than try to interfere with, or change the normal course. We like to see women prior to pregnancy, if possible, to discuss ways in which they can have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

We focus on prevention of complications and treatment if needed. As far as childbirth choices, a midwife educates and supports choices a woman makes for her labor and birth experience, whether that involves an unmedicated or a medicated labor and birth experience. Midwives have lower C-section rates than physicians do, largely in part because of the midwifery philosophy of non-interference in what will occur naturally in labor and birth. National studies have shown that seeing a midwife decreases a woman's chance of having a C-section by 50%.

Midwives are especially adept at caring for adolescent women, who need the extra time and attention that midwives provide. Helping women to begin at a young age to focus on prevention and live a healthy lifestyle encourages them to grow into healthy adults.

Often a woman may need other health issues addressed, such as help with smoking cessation or weight loss, decision making about birth control, sexual function counseling, or addressing of many other sensitive subjects or medical conditions. A midwife will assist her in making health care decisions and suggest when specialist care is indicated.

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What are some of your stats regarding birth?


      Vaginal birth rate-72.2%

      Primary c-section rate- 15%

      Successful VBAC rate- 75.64%

      Induction of labor rate- 13.11%

      Pre-term birth rate- 3.8%

      Episiotomy rate- 1.82%

      Epidural rate- 40%

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      If you have any other questions, please email us.