You might already know that practitioners with a master’s in nurse-midwifery, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, routinely provide care to pregnant women and deliver babies. What you might not know is that these advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) don’t only provide prenatal care and handle the birthing process. Nurse midwives may also care for women who already had their babies and, for women who weren’t pregnant in the first place, provide reproductive healthcare and primary care services.
Seeing a Midwife for Postpartum Care
Mothers’ need for proper care doesn’t end once the baby is born. The postpartum period – from the moments after birth occurs through at least six weeks post-birth – is a time to recover from the ordeal of childbirth and from the physical and emotional stress that comes with pregnancy. During this time, hormone changes, postpartum bleeding, pain from childbirth, and physical changes that accompany lactation (if breastfeeding) are just a few of the challenges new moms routinely encounter. Unfortunately, the postpartum period is also a time when mothers can develop complications, such as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), postpartum preeclampsia, postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety.
Midwifery care during the postpartum period can help mothers distinguish between what physical and emotional changes are a normal part of the recovery process and what symptoms could indicate a problem. Conditions like postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum preeclampsia can be life-threatening, so identifying and properly treating these issues promptly is crucial. Nurse midwives will see their patients, often at their homes, multiple times during the days and weeks after birth.
During the postpartum period, as during pregnancy and birth, a midwife provides care from a holistic nursing model. Mothers often appreciate the emotional support a midwife offers compared to the minimal support many obstetricians provide after birth.
Midwives as Reproductive Care Providers
Even if you aren’t pregnant and have never been pregnant, you can still see a midwife for your reproductive care needs. Remember, Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are a form of advanced practice registered nurse, just like a nurse practitioner is. The education provided in some nurse-midwifery master’s degree programs aligns with the standards required to obtain the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner certification.
Nurse midwives are qualified to provide many of the reproductive care services that gynecologists offer, including annual gynecological exams, screening for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and infections and family planning and birth control prescriptions. In reproductive care, as in maternal care, nurse-midwives take a holistic approach that helps many women feel more at ease – and more thoroughly listened to – than physicians whose training emphasizes the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Among CNMs and Certified Midwives, more than 53 percent of midwives surveyed said that reproductive care, rather than maternal care and delivery of babies, was their main responsibility, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Primary Care Services From a Midwife
For nearly one-third of Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Midwives, primary care is their main responsibility, the American College of Nurse-Midwives reported. Nurse-midwives in primary care might perform routine annual wellness exams, prescribe medications for common ailments and counsel patients about nutrition and other health matters. One of the benefits of seeing a nurse midwife for primary care is that the same person can help you stay healthy and manage chronic conditions, assist with your reproductive care needs and be your provider if you do decide to get pregnant in the future.
It might surprise patients to hear, but federal law classifies Certified Nurse-Midwives as primary care providers, not specialists in childbirth and delivery.
Insurance Coverage of Nurse-Midwife Care
Pregnant or not, patients can choose to see a midwife as their healthcare provider – but matters of insurance coverage can affect this choice. Fortunately, Certified Nurse-Midwives are routinely covered by health insurance. In every state, Medicaid and Medicare insurance reimburse CNMs, usually at the same rate as physicians. In most states, private insurance plans are also required to cover care provided by a Certified Nurse-Practitioner, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
If you’re interested in seeing a nurse midwife, you can start by asking your insurance company for a list of covered providers. Make sure you understand how your coverage works, including your cost-sharing obligations for different tiers of providers.