Today, many women in the U.S. are choosing a midwife to attend the birth of their baby. To meet these increasing requests for midwifery care, The Woman’s Center at Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center offers a team of certified nurse midwives to support women throughout their entire pregnancy and childbirth. The midwifery program at St. Francis has been in existence since the hospital’s founding in 2005 and is the only program of its kind located south of the James River in Richmond.
“Modern midwifery has expanded well beyond just being present to assist when the baby is born,” said Melanie Hartman, CNM, The Woman’s Center at St. Francis. For starters, she and the other midwives are registered nurses with master’s degrees, post-master’s training and board certification by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Bon Secours’ philosophy on the role of midwifery is another key differentiator. “We take a more holistic family-centered approach to health care during pregnancy that demonstrates our understanding of women’s unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs at this exciting time in their lives,” she added.
According to Hartman, all mothers-to-be will meet every member of the midwifery team at St. Francis— currently there are four—throughout the course of their pregnancy. When labor begins, one of the midwives will support the mother during the entire process and attend the birth at St. Francis. “That’s our firm commitment to the women in our care,” she explained.
Along with the team approach, another unique feature of midwifery at St. Francis is the Centering Pregnancy program, which celebrates a woman’s unique pregnancy experience while also helping her to engage with a community of women who have similar due dates. Each two-hour Centering Pregnancy session, led by the midwives and held at routine prenatal care intervals, is dedicated to a particular topic such as nutrition, stress management or lactation, among other topics related to prenatal and infant care.
“Our mothers in this program form strong bonds that last long after childbirth,” noted Hartman. “They stay connected by email and Facebook so that they can give each other advice and encouragement as their children grow. It’s very empowering for women to gain confidence and to take such an active role in health care for themselves and their babies.”
Meg Gomez knew she wanted to be with a midwifery program in a hospital setting for the birth of her three children, and she participated in the Centering Pregnancy program with her third child. “I enjoyed sharing my experiences with the women who were having their first baby, and I gleaned things from them, too,” she said. “The transparency in a group care setting was so important. We realized that we all have the same goals and fears, and we are in this together. During my pregnancies and labor, the midwives were there to support me, advocate for me, coach me and believe in me. Midwifery is about the total birth experience, and they were so accommodating and treated me so lovingly.”
Along with the Centering Pregnancy program, there are a number of comprehensive services offered by the midwifery program for women at all ages and stages of life including:
- Complete prenatal and postpartum care for women with low-risk pregnancies
- Lactation and breastfeeding
- Well-woman annual exams
- Preconception care and family planning
- Menopausal care including hormone replacement therapy
Hartman and the other midwives on the team at St. Francis take pride in their mission to educate women about all aspects of health and wellness. She also praised the nursing staff at St. Francis for supporting the midwifery program and many of the low-intervention birth options for women desiring less medication during childbirth. “Our cesarean section rate is lower than other hospitals, and our VBAC rates [Vaginal Births After C- section] are among the highest in the state,” she stated. “There are so many benefits to partnering with our midwives at St. Francis, including both cost-effectiveness and health care outcomes during pregnancy.”For more information, contact The Woman’s Center at St. Francis at 804-423-8462 or visit http://mybonsecoursbaby.com/.