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Q&A: What Is a Midwife?

Midwife Christina Felten, CNM, DNP, with LVPG Midwifery–Pond Road, has the answer to that question and more

What is a midwife?

Have you heard the news? Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) just opened the area’s first-ever facility dedicated exclusively to providing outpatient midwifery services.

LVHN’s certified nurse-midwives have been attending births at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest and seeing patients at LVHN OB-GYN outpatient practices for years, but now these services are available in an exclusive outpatient setting at LVPG Midwifery–Pond Road.

Connected to the existing LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology–Pond Road office, LVPG Midwifery–Pond Road gives patients the option to choose a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) for their outpatient care needs. Midwives provide prenatal and postpartum care as well as family planning and annual GYN exams. They are also skilled in STD screening and contraceptive procedures like inserting IUDs and Nexplanons.

With LVPG Midwifery–Pond Road now open, some readers may be asking: What exactly is a certified nurse-midwife? Midwife Christina Felten, CNM, DNP, with LVPG Midwifery–Pond Road, is here to answer this question and more.

What is a certified nurse-midwife?

Certified nurse-midwives are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who are experts in pregnancy care for average-risk women before, during and after pregnancy. Midwives are trained in a wellness-based, high-touch, low-intervention manner to provide a more personalized approach to patient care. In the hospital, CNMs manage labor, attend vaginal births and may assist with cesarean births performed by physicians.

In the state of Pennsylvania, CNMs are regulated by the State Board of Medicine and they are required to maintain both their registered nurse (RN) license as well as their certified nurse midwifery (CNM) license. Both licenses have requirements for renewal every two years, requiring continuing education in OB-GYN topics as well as pharmacology. In addition, after they fulfill their graduate education from a certified nurse midwifery program, they are required to pass a national board exam by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). All CNMs at LVHN have both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and some have earned doctoral degrees. 

Our CNMs collaborate with our team of obstetricians and gynecologists (OB-GYN) to provide patients with the best, safest, evidenced-based care.

Who should have a midwife?

Any clinically-appropriate patient who desires high-touch, low-intervention, personalized care may receive care from a midwife as well as anyone who is interested in a more holistic, wellness-based approach to health care.

The word “midwife” originates from the old English word "mid," meaning with, and "wife," meaning women. While the profession has changed in many ways throughout centuries, the concept of being “with women” has remained the same. Midwives pride themselves on providing patient-centered, individualized care for both their patients and their families.

Having your baby at LVHN offers you the best of both worlds: You can experience the intimacy of a midwifery birth in the safety of a state-of-the-art hospital. - Christina Felten, CNM, DNP

Can I still have an epidural if I want a midwife?

While midwives are skilled in supporting natural childbirth, they are also able to support women who desire pain relief during labor, including intravenous pain medication as well as epidural anesthesia.

What if I need a C-section or a complication arises?

The CNMs at LVHN are part of an entire childbirth care team, which incorporates ongoing collaboration with nurses, obstetricians, perinatologists, neonatal teams and anesthesia clinicians. CNMs work closely with their attending obstetrician, so should you require additional medical care, the team is readily available.

At LVHN, our backup physicians are in the hospital with our CNMs 24/7, and anesthesia support services are available for all patients around the clock.

Midwives also help train OB-GYN resident physicians as part of their education, but if you desire solo midwifery care during labor and delivery, that is also available.

Do I still need to see a doctor during my pregnancy?

Not necessarily, but you are welcome to do so. Like OB-GYNs, midwives are fully trained and capable of providing prenatal care for average-risk, healthy women. However, women who have high-risk pregnancies and complex medical histories will be referred to our OB-GYN physicians or maternal fetal medicine specialists.

Do the CNMs attend births anywhere other than the hospital?

No they do not. The CNMs at LVHN do, however, attend births at both Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg and LVH–Cedar Crest. There are also CNMs at LVH–Hazleton, LVH–Pocono and LVH–Schuylkill.

Having your baby at LVHN offers you the best of both worlds: You can experience the intimacy of a midwifery birth in the safety of a state-of-the-art hospital.

Can I continue to receive CNM care after having a baby?

Yes. CNMs provide breastfeeding support and postpartum care to help patients have the best recovery possible after giving birth. Patients can continue seeing a midwife for their annual, well-woman exams as well all the way to menopause.

If I have a midwife, should I also get a doula?

LVHN welcomes doulas. They are privately contracted (which means you would pay for them out of pocket) and wonderful at providing birth support. Some also provide support in the postpartum period.

What if I’m not sure I want a midwife; can I meet with one to discuss my concerns?

Absolutely. Call our LVPG–Pond Road office at 610-398-7700 to schedule an appointment with the CNM care team. You may also further discuss CNM care and scheduling appointments with your nurse at your new OB intake visit with a nurse or during any of your nurse visits.

Midwife Services

LVHN’s women’s health care team

At Lehigh Valley Health Network, we support healthy pregnancies by delivering expert obstetrical care with a team that includes board-certified obstetricians, fellowship-trained maternal fetal medicine specialists and certified nurse-midwives.

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