Midwives gaining in popularity

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When Christy Gasstrom gave birth to her son five years ago, the first-time mom from Ilion received care from an obstetrician.

But when a Utica doctor told her during her second pregnancy that she no longer was a candidate for natural birth because of her previous Caesarean section, she decided to go a different way.

“I didn’t like that answer so I did some research and ended up moving over to the midwives at Bassett (Healthcare),” she said.

A few months later, Gasstrom successfully delivered her daughter Logan ...

Midwives ... are gaining popularity as more women embrace natural childbirth, local practitioners said.

Officials at Mohawk Valley Women’s Health Associates in New Hartford and Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown said the majority of their maternity patients now work with midwives at some stage of their pregnancy. And statewide, more new midwifery licenses were issued in 2010 than in any year since 2006, bringing the total number of licensed practitioners to 879.

A state law that took effect in October also gave midwives more freedom to practice without direct doctor supervision ...

Gasstrom, who had a midwife ... at her delivery last year, said the experience was drastically different from the labor that led to her C-section. The midwife spent more time with her and was “more involved” than her first doctor had been ...

... Joann Roberts, one of four certified nurse midwives who work with Mohawk Valley Women’s Health Associates, said midwives bring a different perspective to childbirth than most obstetricians and have been shown to reduce Caesarean rates. Rome Memorial Hospital, where she performs deliveries, for example, had an 8 percent Caesarean rate in 2010 compared to the national average rate of 26.5 percent reported in 2007.

“We always expect that our mother will be having a normal birth right from the beginning, unless an emergency comes up,” Roberts said, adding that patient education and patience with the labor process are key in her practice.

Many midwives considered it a victory last summer when then-Gov. David Paterson signed the Midwifery Modernization Act, which allowed them to begin practicing without written agreements from doctors. But Roberts, who works with two physicians, said the professions complement each other and that she expects most midwives to continue working in partnership with them.

... Dwynn Golden, one of the certified nurse midwives at Bassett Healthcare’s new birthing center in Cooperstown, said collaborative arrangements also give patients the widest choice of available options without changing providers.

New patients at Bassett meet with a midwife during their initial visit and are given resources explaining the differences in training and experience between midwives and doctors. They then choose to work primarily with a midwife, alternate visits between a midwife and a doctor, or see a doctor exclusively.

“With the popularity of natural childbirth, midwives are viewed as the ideal provider of prenatal care and attending the birth,” ... (But) for some women who prefer inductions to be scheduled and desire an epidural throughout labor, they may not view the role of the midwife as essential to their experience.”

Golden said facilities such as Bassett’s birthing center also offer some mothers more peace of mind because they have access to tools for facilitating natural birth, such as birthing balls and private Jacuzzi tubs, but know there is emergency medical equipment nearby should something go wrong.

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