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Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

Midwifery gains traction in the US, Olathe

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Kelly Fritz is the only certified nurse midwife who works within the Olathe Health System.

“So far, I’m the only one,” she said. “So many more women are requesting it. Midwives are present and growing in hospitals across the country.”

This week was National Midwifery Week. The week, developed by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, was created to educate people about the profession and its role in women’s health care.

“We want women to get more information that there are more options available,” Fritz said.

More than 7,000 certified nurse midwives are practicing in the United States. It’s a number that has grown from 275 in 1963. The practice is legal in all 50 states and is overseen by the ACNM

Though attending birth is an important part of what midwives do, it is only a portion of Fritz’s job, she said. CNMs like Fritz provide gynecological exams, newborn care and assistance with family planning decisions. A big part of her job is to teach women how to maintain health. Most of the well-woman exams she provides take 45-minutes and include lessons on women’s health. Fritz said her job in educating women is to “focus on the whole person,” she said.

“We focus on nutrition, stress management, decreasing behaviors that are unhealthy,” Fritz said. “We teach people we have pretty good bodies, and the better we take care of them, the better they take care of us.”

Fritz meets with women at all points of life, not only pregnancy and birth. Part of the midwife approach is to address “birth, puberty and menopause as normal life events rather than potential medical emergencies,” according to the ACNM Web site, myMidwife.org.

“If you teach a woman to manage her own health, she is better able to help her family as well,” Fritz said.

Nurse midwives practice in homes, birth centers, clinics and hospitals. In 2005, nearly 8 percent of all births in the United States were deliveries attended by CNMs, about 96 percent of those occurred in hospitals, according to the ACNM.

Fritz has been a midwife for six years and works at the Arbor Creek OB/GYN in Olathe. During those years, she has seen the request for midwife care increase. She hopes it is a sign that the type care will grow in Olathe and across Kansas, she said. She pointed out that there is not a nearby location for women in Lynn, Anderson and Miami counties to give birth. An increase in midwife care might help women in search for pregnancy care in such areas, she said.

“We just want people to know there are more options and let people have more say over their health, their labor and birth,” Fritz said. “In those areas, women’s options are lessened.”

When her first child was born, the option of care from a midwife was given to Sarah Darby. The length of her office visits were longer, and the midwife spent a lot of time getting to know her, she said.

“My midwife was very accommodating and understanding,” she said. “My midwife never left my side.”

Her other two children were delivered by an obstetrician. Both experiences were “excellent” she said.

“That’s what I want to convey, that we need OB/GYNs to be a part of health care and that there is also the midwife model,” Darby said.

Now, Darby is a nurse studying to be a certified nurse midwife.

“For me I just wanted to be a bigger part of patient and women’s health care,” Darby said. “This is a narrowed focus of medical training with a nurses touch.”

The American College of Nurse-Midwives launched a Web site this week to inform people about the the profession. For more information visit that website at www.myMidwife.org.

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