A growing number of expecting mothers in the U.S. are seeking our certified nurse-midwives for their prenatal care and delivery – a trend in which other countries are well ahead. About 8.3 percent of babies born in the U.S. are delivered with the guidance of a midwife, compared with more than half of babies in the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Michael Stadler, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Sharon Varner, a certified nurse-midwife, work together at Novant Health Carolina Women’s Health Associates, to help expectant mothers welcome newborn babies into their lives.

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Dr. Stadler and Sharon Varner often see patients together to support soon-to-be mothers.

“A lot of mothers choose to work with midwifes because they want a more hands-on and natural labor experience,” Varner said. “At the same time, Stadler noted, “some people don’t know they want to work with a midwife until they’ve had an initial consultation and others want to work with a midwife and physician.”

We asked Stadler and Varner to share some of the common questions they get asked.

Q. What’s the difference between an ob-gyn and a certified nurse-midwife?

A. Ob-gyn doctors have completed medical school and a residency program. They also handle more high-risk pregnancies that involve conditions such as high blood pressure or a high body mass index, and perform surgeries like C-sections when needed.

Certified nurse-midwives hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in midwifery. A nurse-midwife works with mothers with normal, healthy pregnancies. Some midwives can help with high-risk pregnancies, but do so in collaboration with a physician.

Q. How do ob-gyns and midwives work together?

A. Patients are encouraged to get familiar with all of our providers throughout their pregnancy. Really it’s a win-win for mothers who want access to the surgical expertise that physicians offer combined with the holistic approach that midwives bring to the practice.  

Q. What’s the biggest misconception people have about midwives?

A. “Patients think if you choose midwives you must deliver in your home,” said Varner. “Midwives can deliver in homes but I have never done a home birth.  I do my deliveries at the hospital. “Another misconception I hear often is that midwives don’t offer epidurals”. Midwives listen to their patients and provide epidurals for pain management if desired.”

Q. What are the benefits of working with a midwife and physician team?

A. As midwife-led births become more common, a team approach offers mothers more choices, while still having access to the highest level care a physician can provide in the case of an emergency during childbirth.

Check out our birth preparation guide for soon-to-be moms.