Midwifery myth: Midwives reject pain medications

One of the primary responsibilities of certified nurse midwives (CNMs) is educating women, so they can make informed choices regarding their health care. So even though some think that CNMs do not believe in pain medication for labor and birth, that is not true at all.

What can a midwife do for you?

The experience of labor and birth differs among each woman and each pregnancy. Your response to pain is very individualized, so your care should be too. Women have access to a variety of approaches to provide comfort and reduce pain throughout labor and birth. This may include non-pharmacologic approaches like hydrotherapy, massage, and relaxation techniques. Or you may need pharmacologic relief with intravenous pain medication, a spinal or epidural block.

The responsibility of a CNM is not to decide if you need pharmacologic pain relief because they are not the one who has to push that baby out.  Their responsibility is to inform and support you in the decisions that you make. In order for any woman to make an informed choice, she will need access to information on the science regarding the strengths and limitations as well as the benefits and risks of available pain management options.

Creating a birth plan

Our CNMs ask women to write a birth plan that has their individual preferences for labor and birth. We will review and discuss it with them at their 36-week visit. This plan may include who will be with you and what role they will play, whether you prefer a medicated or non-medicated birth, etc. The plan gets scanned into your chart so that every one of the labor and delivery team members can access it when you are in labor. We do encourage women to be flexible.  The baby may not follow the plan. In some cases, you may need to adjust your plan along the way. The CNM will be there to support you if you need to adjust the plan.

The nurse-midwives at University of Iowa Health Care try very hard to help women labor and give birth in a safe and supportive environment, so they feel empowered to give birth in the way they have chosen and will have happy memories of their experience.

Learn more about our midwives and the services they offer.

Last reviewed: 
March 2017

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