Introducing Therese, our resident midwifery advisor (and Ariel's mom)

October 14 | Guest post by Therese Charvet
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

Yes, nepotism is alive and well here on Offbeat Mama! I'm not sure how many of you know this, but my mom Therese is a retired midwife, midwifery advocate, and educator.

Offbeat Mama supports each family choosing a birth plan that's right for them, but it seems like we would be remiss if we didn't take advantage of the fact that my mom's got a massive wealth of knowledge about midwifery … and so I've asked her to write a column for us called Ask the Midwife.

We'll start with a basic Q&A — and then take your questions! -Ariel


What does a midwife do? Why don't we hear much about them in the U.S?
Midwives attend the majority of normal births in nearly every country in the world except the United States and Canada.

The reason for this is a result of a campaign against midwives in the early 1900's conducted by the newly forming Medical Profession who hoped to boost their medical practices by attracting women. Another factor was the industrial revolution which resulted in young couples moving away from their extended families, so they no longer knew the local midwives.

The media campaign portrayed midwives as dirty and ignorant and doctors as educated and modern. The net result was that by the 1950's doctors attended nearly all the births except in isolated rural pockets. However, in the 1970's, as a result of the horrendous experience many women had giving birth with doctors in hospitals at that time, midwives began to re-emerge.

At this time in 2009 midwives are available in many areas and attend births in hospitals, birth centers and at home, in rural areas and in cities. However, the percentage of births delivered by midwives is still small (10% at best) because many women are frightened about birth and believe that a doctor and hospital will be safer.

Truth is, for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, midwives are often the best choice. Medicalization of birth has not resulted in better outcomes, because birth is a normal process and works best when not interfered with unless there is indication of a problem.

Midwives know how to monitor pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They sit with a woman, support and encourage the natural process. They are also trained to recognize complications and when to get medical help when needed.

More importantly, midwives generally take more time to get to know their clients and treat each woman holistically, acknowledging that family, socio-economic, spiritual, emotional and psychological factors are essential to address.

Giving birth is can be a rite of passage for women, catalyzing profound growth at the spiritual, emotional and psychological levels. Midwives understand and acknowledge this. This 'Ask the Midwife' column is for questions along those lines — not for medical questions.

I look forward to your questions, whether you are trying to make sense out of what happened at your birth last year or you are trying to prepare yourself for an impending birth. I am here to help you delve into the ways pregnancy, birth, and tending a newborn has changed you or will change you, and how you can make the most of this transformational time in your life.

I hope to be a guide so these experiences can make you stronger and wiser rather than just making you crazy. Goddess knows, the world needs many more 'wise women' at this point in history and we all have it in us!

Blessings to all of you Offbeat Mamas! May you continue to march to the beat of your own inner-drummer πŸ™‚

If you've got a question to Ask the Midwife, you can click here to email Therese. She'll select a question every couple weeks to answer on the site. Remember, if you've got medical questions, you need to contact your care provider!

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  1. Thank you for a wonderful Midwife snippet! My brother and I were both born at home and plan on continuing the tradition. I look forward to reading your "column".:D

  2. I have to admit that I don't know a whole lot of midwifery (is that the correct term? I guess) and I have been looking into natural birth centers, etc. a lot lately as my husband and I try to get pregnant. I guess that in the end, it just sounds so much less sterile and so much more personal than a hospital birth. I am looking forward to your "column" as well and I am particularly interested in hearing more about the interaction between midwives and medical hospitals (ie. do you have a hospital on "stand by" in case something goes wrong, etc). Thanks!

    • Yep! "Midwifery" is indeed the correct term. πŸ™‚

      And be sure to send the more specific questions to my mom — this is totally the kind of stuff she can answer!

      • Generally, under good conditions, midwives have a particular doctor (or set of doctors) and a hospital who knows the midwife for women who need medical attention. Unfortunately, in some communities the medical establishment is so against midwifery and homebirth, no such arrangement is possible.

  3. yes! I've been trying to find a midwife Q&A thing for a while now! I'm very interested in it and am seriously considering alternative birthing methods, but of course have many questions that I don't know who to ask. I'm really looking forward to your column!

  4. What is wrong w. you that you are getting a medicalized birth, Ariel? Must be a disappointment. πŸ™

  5. What a great intro! We're not near having kids yet, but I look forward to learning more about this so I'll be more prepared when the time comes. <3

  6. the absence of midwives is such a contrast between birth in the US and the UK (where i am). Sure, it's over medicalised here in lots of the same ways, but the majority of women still see midwives for all of their pregnancy & labour care. I saw one doctor my whole pregnancy (unfortunately it was when we had to transfer from our homebirth to a hospital birth, but that's a different story!)

  7. I'm so excited about this column! My sister was born in the hospital, afterwards my mother opted to have midwives deliver both my brother and I at home. In college I read books about The Farm and Ina May, and I had the pleasure of meeting the midwife who delivered me. I am looking forward to reading Therese's postings. ^_^

  8. I come from New Zealand and midwife deliveries are seen as the norm. Over 80% of women have them as their 'lead maternity carer' who look after women from pregnancy until 6 weeks after birth. You can choose where to deliver so even if you deliver in a hospital (which is free along with all other maternity care btw), your midwife will deliver your baby and will still likely be there even if you need to be referred to an OB (also free in the public sector) if you need a ceaser.

  9. My grandmother used to be a midwife. I'm definitely going to have one when I have kids… Great to see you posting here! After reading Ariel's book, you're basically a celebrity!

  10. I am one of those people who love the hospital for anything and everything…. except giving birth. I totally believe hospitals have a place in the birthing process, but only if necessary…. I like the idea of having a caring midwife who is there with me throughout the birthing process, not just the last bit where the pushing happens! Luckily, midwifery just became coverered by health care here in Alberta (after a lot of hardwork by our midwives, birth advocates, and mums!) so I know it can be an option for me!

  11. this is so great! i look forward to reading this column. i'm in the unfortunate situation where my insurance will not cover an at-home birth, and there are no freestanding birth centers in the area, so i don't really have a choice but to deliver in the hospital with a doctor. the only CNM in the entire area works out of my doctor's office though, so i suppose that's something. i'm expecting my first baby in april of next year, so the whole thing is a little scary and i really wish there was someone available to me here that's more specialized (but not medicalized) in pregnancy, birth, and neonatal care.

    the US is really backward when it comes to this kind of stuff, i think. it's so unfortunate.

  12. My son is 8. I didn't like my doctor and was thrilled he was stuck at another hospital when I went into labor and my son had to be delivered by the midwife on duty. It was a wonderful, calm experience. Even though I had not met her before that night, she was wonderful. If I'd had anymore children, I definitely would have gone to her from the start of my pregnancy.

  13. Great idea for a column! cant wait! out of interest Therese can you/have you been a midwife when your daughter gives birth?

  14. I can answer this one! My mom will be attending our birth, and in fact our midwife Heike is one of her former students. That said, she'll be there in "Mom Mode," *NOT* midwife mode. I've made it very clear that no birth directives should come from mom — I'm just enough of a brat that if my mom told me to do something (ie, "PUSH!"), I'd stubbornly refuse just because YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, MOM! πŸ˜‰

  15. I can answer this one! My mom will be attending our birth, and in fact our midwife Heike is one of her former students. That said, she'll be there in "Mom Mode," *NOT* midwife mode. I've made it very clear that no birth directives should come from mom — even though I'm 34, I'm still just enough of a brat that if my mom told me to do something (ie, "PUSH!"), I'd stubbornly refuse just because YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, MOM! πŸ˜‰

  16. I can answer this one! My mom will be attending our birth, and in fact our midwife Heike is one of her former students. That said, she'll be there in "Mom Mode," *NOT* midwife mode. I've made it very clear that no birth directives should come from mom — even though I'm 34, I'm still just enough of a brat that if my mom told me to do something (ie, "PUSH!"), I'd stubbornly refuse just because YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME, MOM! πŸ˜‰

  17. Being someone who is aspiring to begin my journey into becoming a midwife, I'm happy to see such a warm response to it. Then again, I don't know why I wouldn't see it here amongst the offbeat mamas.

    I'm curious to know if Therese has a favorite school she suggests for midwifes-to-be. I saw that San Francisco has an amazing program. Now that I'm settled into California, I look forward to this journey and what it will bring to myself and others in the future.

    Hurrah for Midwives!

  18. SO excited to see Therese joining the community! I'm an aspiring midwifery student with a dream to find a like-minded OB to collaborate with so I can offer services to high-risk Mommas. It's great to hear from someone who's been in the tradition for years that isn't biased in the other direction, you know? Keep on kickin' ass, lady!

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