Four reasons midwives are a superb women's health-care solution

Because they are the medical equivalent of a single-proprietor or partnership-style business, midwifery practices offer a vast amount of flexibility both for providers and for their clients. Midwives can set their own hours (except for the inevitable occasional overnight when babies decided to enter the world), work loads, and atmosphere. Some midwives essentially work part-time, so they can both help support their families with money and with their presence. Some will schedule you a routine checkup and other non-emergency care for just about any day of the week; others hold office visits just one or two days per week. She gets to choose her working terms and environment in ways no doctor or nurse in the conventional system can.

As you might guess, this makes for really happy health-care providers, which in turn makes for really happy and well-cared-for patients. One nurse-midwife I met raved about her job arrangement because, in her previous hospital job, she had been required to see at least 20 patients per day. That left her hardly 10 minutes to see each person. My midwife schedules an hour for our routine prenatal visits. This makes me feel like a person instead of a sickness unit, and we are able to establish a real relationship that pays off significantly during labor, because I know, like, and trust her. This also lets her get to know my unique health needs very well, so that she’s very in-tune when even something little is off.

You really can’t imagine what a massive support this is for a woman during a time of deep vulnerability in her life. My midwives, for example, taught me how to nurse my first newborn. The strange newness of that skill was made worse by the fact that it really, really hurt. Learning how to manage not only kept me nursing my (eventually enormously fat and prodigiously healthy) first baby, which gave us a relationship I still remember with joy, it also set me up to nurse the babies that came after with little need for further coaching.