Choices for Childbirth: Midwives and More

Newborn baby laying on mother's chest

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Parents want choices when it comes to childbirth, says Mary Lou Kopas of the Northwest Hospital Midwives Clinic and chief of midwifery at the Childbirth Center at Northwest Hospital. That’s why the center offers expectant mothers the choice of expert midwifery care before, during and after pregnancy.

Midwives are healthcare professionals who specialize in assisting normal, natural, uncomplicated births. Certified nurse-midwives (CNM) are advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) who have graduate degrees and have passed a national certification exam. Midwives care for pregnant mothers throughout their pregnancy and birth, including prenatal care and education, labor and delivery, and post-partum care.

Kopas explains that certified nurse-midwifes are authorized to prescribe tests and medications, including pain medications and epidurals if mothers need or want them during labor. The midwives also collaborate with other members of the childbirth team, including obstetricians, doulas, and nurses to ensure that new mothers and their families have a safe and fulfilling birth experience.

Kopas highlighted several recent additions that have helped the Northwest Hospital Childbirth Center grow even more “family friendly.”

  • Option of choosing a nurse-midwife or an obstetrician as your pregnancy and birth care provider
  • Nitrous oxide

The center now offers nitrous oxide as another choice for pain relief during labor. More commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a mixture of 50 percent oxygen and 50 percent nitrous oxide. During labor, mothers can administer the nitrous oxide themselves whenever they feel they need it, simply by breathing through a mask. The pain relieving effect of nitrous oxide is almost immediate and wears off as soon as you stop inhaling it, so you are free to experience your labor in whatever way you wish.

  • Family-Friendly Cesarean Sections

A family-friendly Cesarean section means helping families immediately see and bond with their babies. Unlike a typical cesarean, where a mother is unable to see her baby until after the delivery, the center offers a mother and her partner the opportunity to witness the moment of their baby’s birth through a clear drape, and to then have skin-to-skin contact following the birth while still in the operating room.

  • Breastfeeding support

The Northwest Hospital Childbirth Center is in the final stages of becoming a Baby-Friendly facility. This is a World Health Organization designation that recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that follow practices to support successful breastfeeding initiation, such as immediate skin-to-skin contact and delay of unnecessary procedures so that parents and baby can bond. The center also has lactation consultants on hand seven days a week who visit every breastfeeding mother.

Learn more about the Northwest Hospital Midwives Clinic, or call 206.668.6670 to make an appointment.

Learn more about the Northwest Hospital Childbirth Center, or call 206.668.1784 to schedule a tour.

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