Midwife means “with woman”
by Kate Pfaff, APRN, CNM
Did you know that the word midwife means literally, “with woman”? It is a simplified but accurate description of what Hennepin Healthcare Birth Center midwives do every day. We are skilled at listening to women’s concerns and priorities and strive to be fully present for them through important life stages.
At the heart of midwifery is the belief that labor and birth are normal life events for most women. We, therefore, try our best to maintain the “normalcy” of the situation. This might look like quiet reassurance when labor is hard, or the encouragement to continue eating and drinking to keep up energy levels. Our laboring patients can be seen meandering the hallways slowly, soaking in our large hydrotherapy tub, or creatively positioned with pillows and yoga balls in a comfortable resting state. Many of our patients choose to use pain medication in labor, and we fully support these choices too.
Midwives also are skilled at recognizing when things are no longer normal, which of course can and does occur. In these instances, we respectfully request assistance from our doctor colleagues in obstetrics, who are experts in high risk situations. Our relationship is one of mutual respect so the patient experiences care that is seamless.
Midwives at the Birth Center have been welcoming babies into the world for 48 years. Way back in 1971, our pioneer midwife recognized the need to listen to what women wanted. After surveying the community, she and her hospital collaborators created a comfortable birth space that kept women and families at the center and placed the medical supplies on the periphery of each birth room – accessible but not the focus. Long before it was trendy to build a beautiful birth center, our midwives welcomed patients into our home-like atmosphere. We were rated “best place to have a baby” back before internet surveys and rating systems were available. Today, we boast a C-section rate of just 10.4% and a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) success rate of 87%.
While a lot of what midwives do revolve around labor and birth, we also see women in the clinic for pre-conception counseling, annual check-ups, Pap and infection screenings, and birth control.
I have been a midwife at Hennepin Healthcare for 13 years, and I will confidently say that it just never gets old! The amazing capability of women to cope with the intensity of birth in its many forms; quick or agonizingly slow, fraught with hope or fear, joy or grief, is a privilege to witness. I’m repeatedly struck by its beauty and I feel very lucky to have a career being “with woman.”
About the author
Kate Pfaff, APRN, CNM is a Certified Nurse Midwife caring for women across the lifespan. Prior to becoming a nurse-midwife, she obtained degrees in Spanish and International Studies. Kate is fluent in Spanish. She is “honored to be able to partner with women and families in a comprehensive approach to reproductive and well woman care. I feel the most important thing I can provide is non-biased listening to patients goals and priorities.”