Midwife Myths & Misconceptions

MYTH: Midwives Aren’t Regulated Like Physicians.

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are licensed registered nurses (LRN) who trained at an accredited nursing school and went on to receive a master’s degree from an accredited program. They are required to receive continued education and be up to date on the latest procedures and evidence-based care. All MarinHealth Medical Network midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, an organization that oversees certification of nurse-midwives throughout the country.

MYTH: If Anything Goes Wrong, There Won’t Be a Doctor Around.

MarinHealth Medical Center follows specific guidelines regarding when a midwife needs to consult, collaborate, and/or co-manage, or transfer care to a physician. Every laboring woman has immediate 24/7 on-site access to a certified nurse midwife (CNM), an OB/GYN, an anesthesiologist, and, in case an emergency C-section is needed, a dedicated operating room and team. In the event of a complication, CNMs are trained to help you with medical decisions and work closely with a physician. If an emergency C-section is necessary, midwives are trained to assist the surgeon in the OR and can stay involved with your care. Sick or fragile newborns are cared for in our fully equipped Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staffed 24/7 with pediatric hospitalists onsite. Through our partnership with UCSF Health, UCSF neonatologists are available on site to oversee the care of sick infants.

MYTH: Midwives Only Deliver in Homes.

Midwives can assist with births in a home or hospital setting. Our medical network midwives deliver at MarinHealth Medical Center and collaborate as needed with the physicians, nurses, and other clinicians there.

MYTH: Midwives Won’t Administer Pain Medication.

Both our midwives and physicians work with each woman individually to honor her preferences regarding pain relief. Epidurals and other forms of pain relief, including nitrous oxide, are available. Our team excels at supporting women who opt for a natural labor. We encourage expectant women to fill out a Birth Preferences Plan so that we can best fulfill their wishes for labor and delivery.

MYTH: A VBAC Is Too Complex for a Midwife to Handle.

If you are hoping for a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean (VBAC), you’ve come to the right place. MarinHealth Medical Center’s rate of successful VBACs is three times higher than the national average. Midwives assist many of our VBACs. It is important to note that according to a 2017 Cochrane Review involving over 17,000 mothers and babies, women who use midwives are less likely to receive medical interventions.

MYTH: Midwives and Doulas Are the Same Thing.

CNMs are medical professionals, trained to deliver babies. Doulas are nonmedical professionals who provide physical and emotional support to laboring women but do not play a clinical role. We welcome doulas as part of a woman’s Birth Preferences Plan.

MYTH: All Midwives Do Is Deliver Babies.

The word midwife means “with woman.” A midwife is trained to care for a woman through her reproductive life and beyond. When a woman is pregnant, she can look to her midwife for prenatal care, labor and delivery care, and postpartum follow-up. A CNM also provides well-woman gynecological care, including pap smears and breast cancer screenings.