For many women, the act of childbirth involves surrendering one’s body over to an obstetrical team versed in birthing babies. The soon to be mother and fetus are monitored for abnormalities in their heartbeats and blood pressure, contractions timed and centimeters measured. A “natural childbirth” minus painkillers or one involving a calming epidural follows – unless complications arise. The patient may sadly discover her hours of laboring will end in a C-section…and the use of anesthetics. Her carefully constructed birthing plan has fallen apart. As the newborn takes over its urge to emerge, that first sweet cry dissipates any lingering stress, and a mother is introduced to the purest love she’s ever known.
Women craving a more empowering route may embrace the guidance of a midwife offering a more holistic approach to childbirth. One benefit of having a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is that an obstetrician is available if complications do arise. “I really love women getting involved in their own care. Pregnancy is a normal experience,” said Bindu Poudel, DNP, CNM, WHNP, faculty associate and certified nurse-midwife from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “It’s nice to be able to empower women so that they can care for themselves and set boundaries and care for their baby,” said Gayla Sholey, CNM, TTUHSC El Paso Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Unfortunately, living on the border, many women are very late getting their prenatal care, and there are also many unplanned teenage pregnancies due to lack of contraceptive devices, knowledge and access to health coverage. “As a certified nurse-midwife, I want to make a difference in this community by helping women and teaching future CNMs,” said Dr. Poudel. Her research areas of interest include group prenatal care, teenage pregnancy, perinatal/women’s health issues, refugee and immigrant health.
“Pregnancy is a great time to make lifestyle changes because women are motivated by their children,” said Dr. Poudel. “I help them make better choices.”
Sholey became a nurse-midwife after delivering her fifth child. “I had a wonderful nurse and started exploring a career in midwifery during my three-month maternity leave,” she said. “I had been a critical care float nurse in Cleveland for almost 20 years and felt capable of more. My husband said he would support me to become a doctor, but I wanted to be a nurse-midwife. I L-O-V-E IT!
“Many young, first time mothers don’t know the questions to ask or much about their bodies or how to care for a baby,” said Sholey. “First time older mothers have usually had more opportunities to be around children or attend the birthing process with a sister. Either way, I try to explain to them what is going on with their body, lab work and growing baby – and teach them how to nurture themselves and their growing baby.”
Apart from assisting in childbirth, CMNs are also qualified to deliver most family planning and gynecological needs for women of all ages.