Cassady Daniel enjoyed working with certified nurse-midwife Jenevieve Bayless so much during her first pregnancy in 2021, she knew immediately who to call when she found out she was expecting again this year.
“My best friend in the small town where I live has two kids and referred me,” Daniel recalled. “I was a nervous first-time mom, and hearing what a great experience she’d had with a midwife made a big impact on me.”
Along with fellow CNM Megan Bristol, Bayless joined the SCL Health Medical Group’s Butte OB/GYN clinic in 2022 to offer patients the option of working with a midwife before, during and after their pregnancies.
The benefits of a midwife
By traditional definition, a midwife is a patient-centered healthcare professional who is trained to assist women throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and immediately after the baby is born. They typically work in a healthcare or clinical setting.
“The big thing that differentiates us from an OB/GYN is the ability to offer additional support for the patient,” Bristol said. “We work to facilitate her birth plan and meet her needs as far as labor and delivery go, as long as the mom and baby are safe and healthy.”
“With our additional training and advanced capabilities as certified nurse midwives, coupled with our previous experience as labor and delivery nurses, we understand the importance of being at the bedside and spend most of our time in the room with them,” Bayless added.
Although trained to provide a high level of personal attention and support, CNMs may actually take a less hands-on approach to the birthing process than some other healthcare providers. Many of the women they care for choose to give birth without an epidural or other medication, for example. Some studies indicate that employing the services of a midwife during labor and delivery may reduce the patient’s chances of requiring a C-section.
“This is because midwives try to support physiological birth (powered solely by the woman’s own body) with the least amount of interventions,” Bristol explained. “We can manage the entire birth process from start to finish unless there’s some kind of complication, in which case we will call a staff OB/GYN or a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in to consult.”
Having earned Master of Science in Nursing degrees, Bayless and Bristol continued their education to become CNMs through the American Midwifery Nursing Board. In turn, as CNMs, they work to educate and empower their patients to make healthy decisions regarding their own healthcare. Unlike a doula who is strictly on hand to provide guidance and support to clients during their labor and delivery, CNMs are formally trained to oversee not only the birth process, but to provide services across the entire spectrum of women’s healthcare.
Misconceptions about midwives
“The biggest misconception about what we do is that midwives just deliver babies and that’s it,” Bristol pointed out. “Yes, we do offer prenatal care through postpartum care, but people often don’t realize that we are also able to care for women from adolescence and pre-menstruation all the way through menopause and beyond, including annual checkups, screenings, pap smears and breast exams.”
“You don’t have to be pregnant to see a nurse-midwife,” Bayless echoed. “You don’t even have to have a uterus!”
Another aspect of their professional duties as CNMs: Bayless and Bristol provide outreach and telehealth services for patients who live at a distance or in rural southwestern Montana communities such as Boulder, Deer Lodge, and Sheridan. They also see patients at Southwest Montana Community Health Center in Butte and Anaconda.
Repeating a great birth experience
The level of personal care Daniel received during her first pregnancy and delivery is why she says she chose to stay with Bayless for her second.
“I really like the bond and connection I’ve been able to build with my midwife,” she said. “I love that I can call her at any time, and she’s always available to me.”
The National Center for Health Statistics suggests that CNM-managed births are on the rise. As they are seeing patients advocate for more autonomy over decisions regarding their own bodies in general, Bayless and Bristol feel that midwifery will only continue to become more popular in the years to come.
“(Women) are wanting less intervention, not just from their OB/GYNs, but across the board in healthcare,” Bayless said. “We find that women are choosing to take more control over the kind of birth experience they want to have. And we’re happy to work with them to provide it.”
To learn more about or certified nurse midwives, visit sjh-mt.org/womenshealth.