Midwives Are the New Status Symbol, According to the New York Times

According to the Style section of the New York Times, midwives are the new black.

In “Midwife Is the New Status Symbol” Danielle Pergament asks, “Are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes? It seems that way, at least among certain well-dressed pockets of New York society, where midwifery is no longer seen as a weird, fringe practice favored by crunchy types, but as an enlightened, more natural choice for the famous and fashionable.”

The reasons for the trend?

* The quality of care is excellent
* Midwives spend more time with moms during prenatal visits and labor
* There’s a general trend towards things that are more “natural”
* Word-of-mouth: “My friends who had the best birth experiences all went to midwives,” says an NYC stylist.

I’m thrilled to read that the midwives are busy and people are catching on to the value of this kind of care. It’s something I’ve been writing about for a long time. I can never get enough of quotes such as this one:

“‘Pregnancy is not a disease, it’s a condition,’ said Dr. Moritz, whose own children were delivered by midwives. ‘We need fewer OB’s and more midwives.’”

And this:

“There will always be people who have no idea what we do — they think we’re witches who perform séances and burn candles,” said Barbara Sellars, who runs CBS Midwifery, a small practice in Manhattan’s financial district. “Sure, some women want a hippie-dippy spiritual birth, and I can’t guarantee that. I can guarantee the quality of care.” Yes! Quality of care!

Unfortunately the article does come with the baggage of your typical trend piece. At times it reads like ONLY hipsters (ie: wealthy white women in expensive NYC zip codes) hire midwives. There’s a tiny hint of a suggestion that midwives are like some luxe, funsy lifestyle choice for the pampered set, which is madness/maddening.

Jill Arnold, blogger at The Unnecesarean, posted: “So now the narrative is that it’s not all about maternal request cesareans and being ‘too posh to push?’ Where are the sociologists/anthropologists on the page who want to blow my mind by analyzing both the effects of this type of media story and the concept of framing women’s decisions about their bodies and health as being subject to fashion and trends?” It didn’t take long before a sociologist chimed in with the astute observation that there have always been trends in birth and often they are set by the upper classes. This is how we moved from home birth to hospital birth, midwife to doctor.

I live in NYC and teach childbirth classes and I definitely see a bit of a trend towards midwives, but all kinds of women are going this route, not just some mythical “Sex in the City” set. In fact, it’s kind of amazing sometimes to see the diversity of women — in terms of class, religion and cultural background — who share in a the common goal of giving birth with a midwife. (This is where the Christian right and the radical left can actually agree on something.)

I think it’s also a tiny bit misleading to mention that midwives are turning away clients because of demand, as the article does, without also saying that midwives in NYC are far outnumbered by obstetricians. This is part of the reason why the midwifery offices are so crowded, there just are not that many midwives and even fewer birthing center rooms available.

Nevertheless, I hope this article reflects a real consumer demand for midwives and that this demand translates to more midwives and more doctors who will partner with midwives!

Do you think midwives are trendy these days? Or is this piece over-blown?

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a certified childbirth educator and co-author of the pregnancy and birth book, From The Hips. You can follow her birth blogging on Facebook.

 

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