Prenatal Appointments with Midwives
Often when people are choosing between a doctor and a homebirth midwife, they concentrate only on the birth itself. I went the midwife route for that reason, and I was so pleased with the prenatal appointments, that at the end, I felt like, no matter where I ended up birthing, I would be happy I had experienced my prenatal appointments with midwives.
Every practitioner is different of course, but I’m going to share what I liked about attending prenatal appointments with midwives in an exam room built into one of their houses, nestled in the forest.
It Feels Like Home.
Rather than a long wait in a doctor’s office (somehow both sterile and full of germs), I started each appointment by laughing at the bumper sticker on the car outside: “Midwives help people out.” Then my husband and I took our shoes off at the door and were greeted with warm hugs and cool glasses of water.
When we did need to wait a few minutes, we lounged on the comfy living room couch next to the inspiring book collection: gardening, mushroom identification, feminist theory.
The exam room had an exam chair, but I spent most of each appointment on a comfy padded bench, with a foot stool, just talking. We had full access to the birth lending library: baby name books, birth stories, breastfeeding how-tos, home birth DVDs, books on sex during pregnancy.
One day, I was in the exam chair when I saw a mother deer and her two spotted fawns stroll past the window. Very dreamy.
A Good Midwife Helps You To Trust Yourself & Your Body.
At my first appointment, my midwives gave me a copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. The must-read book by America’s most renowned midwife (from the vegan commune The Farm) features homebirth stories and other empowering info. This gift set the tone for the care my midwives would provide at my prenatal appointments: Birth is empowering. Your body knows how to do this. Trust yourself.
At my 32-week appointment, they asked me the question, “What scares you?” and they took the time to talk through every fear I had. Immediately, I started bawling (not the first or last time I cried there) and said, “What if I can’t do it?” Their response: “You can. One way or another, the baby is coming out of you; that baby can’t stay in there forever, so you already know you’re going to do it. You already know you can!”
The homebirth that sounds intimidating now might not after a pregnancy full of prenatal appointments with midwives.
You Can Still Do All The Tests You Want.
Even if you do prenatal appointments with midwives, you can do whatever tests you want. Some tests they can do themselves; some they’ll give you referrals for. My midwives gave me information at our first visit about all the test options I had and said to take my time deciding which, if any, I’d like to do.
I opted for the glucose screening test for gestational diabetes, but I had no idea at the time that most people were given a concoction with artificial dyes in it, because my midwives told me to pick up a Naked Juice or similar with the proper amount of sugar in it. That works just as well.
We also opted for a first trimester blood test to check for our chance of chromosomal abnormalities. If it was just me, I would’ve skipped it, but my husband really wanted me to do this one, just for his peace of mind. While some results lead to a push for more invasive tests, like chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, the blood test itself is just a blood test on you, so it causes no risk to baby.
We did pee tests each visit that checked 10 different things, like protein, glucose and pH. But, unlike the doctor’s office, they taught me how to dip/read the tests myself, and just told me to let them know if any of my levels were ever out of range.
They even did my pap (I was due for it) at my first appointment!
My midwives were clear that if I ever wanted an ultrasound, they could refer me for one, and that they would tell me if they ever saw a medical reason for one, but we never saw a need.
As Strange As It Sounds, They Have The Ancient Knowledge.
When people hear that I never had an ultrasound during my pregnancy, many are confused about what I even did at appointments.
While you can do most of the same medical tests at prenatal appointments with midwives that you can do in the doctor’s office, homebirth midwives also maintain the older ways of taking the time to quietly notice things that others might miss. People have been guiding each other through pregnancy for a lot longer than humanity’s had ultrasounds.
Like, I said, we talked about fears. Also breastfeeding. And what birth control might look like post-partum. They gave me a voucher for a free pregnancy massage. They asked me to keep a food journal for a few days (and were interested to learn more about vegan food from me, and even more excited when I baked zucchini muffins for them).
And they were always measuring my blood pressure, my fundal height, and listening to baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope (and starting at 23 weeks, showed me how to listen too!) Most impressive, they were adept at feeling baby’s position inside me, when I didn’t have a clue. Perhaps not doing ultrasounds except when medically necessary leads to a better hands-on sense; perhaps they just took the time to really look and listen.
Want a Hospital Birth? You May Be Able To Get This Care.
Some homebirth midwives offer the opportunity to do your prenatal appointments with them even if you think you want to birth in a hospital (this is definitely something to ask them about straight away, never to assume!) Even if you see the same obstetrician for your whole pregnancy, there’s a high chance that they won’t be present at your birth, so with that possible lack of continuity in mind, you may wish for the comfort of prenatal midwife appointments.
My Washington State Medicaid paid in full for all of my prenatal midwife appointments (and my homebirth), but I know options like this are not available everywhere.
Who to entrust with your prenatal appointments is an extremely personal choice, but the more choices we have, and the more we know about them, the more empowered we can be!
Tags: doctors appointments, gestational diabetes, home birth, midwives, pregancy massages, pregnancy, prenatal appointments