Published in Moms & Dads Today magazine, July/August 2016
Delivering Individualized Care for Expecting Mothers
Meet St. Luke’s Certified Nurse Midwife Mary Johnson
Perhaps the greatest hallmark of modern health care is the shift toward
patient-centric care. Now more than ever, patients are taking control
of the care they receive and how they receive it. This is especially true
when it comes to labor and delivery. Delivering babies is now more about
providing the level of care and options expectant mothers deserve.
One example of taking patient concerns to heart is offering different options
for OB care providers, such as a certified nurse midwife. But just what
are certified nurse midwives and how are they different from an OB-GYN?
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) provides full-scope care before pregnancy
and through every stage of life. A CNM can serve as a primary OB care
provider, offering a natural, low-intervention approach to pregnancy and
health care. At St. Luke's, CNMs are registered nurses that receive
advanced practice preparation through graduate level education. They are
able to practice in a hospital setting and have the ability to prescribe
medications, including options for pain control.
For some, that last part can be a surprise. Historically, midwives were
considered only for mothers wanting a natural birth. However, according
to St. Luke’s CNM Mary Johnson, choosing a midwife is less about
“natural or not” and more about choosing the approach to pregnancy
you’re looking for.
“Midwives come to women’s health from a holistic nursing perspective,”
Mary Johnson, CNM, explained. “We tend to see pregnancy, labor and
delivery as a normal, physiological function, and support mothers any
way we can to assist in that process.”
That support can come in many different forms, whether it’s answering
any questions mothers have at any hour of the day or providing the information
mothers need to make the best choices for them. It can also mean reassuring
expecting mothers that they’re doing okay.
“There’s nothing more powerful than a woman in labor. I’m
in awe of a mother’s strength,” Mary said. “I consider
my role to be helping women feel comfortable with the process that’s
happening, and to encourage them to trust themselves.”
Katie Jorgenson, a registered nurse at St. Luke’s who was expecting
her second child, chose Mary to provide the intimate care and support
she was seeking. She hoped for a natural birth, but still wanted a hospital
setting so she’d be prepared if anything changed. After 28 hours
of labor, she was happy with both of those decisions.
“The delivery didn’t go as expected, which happens, but Mary
stuck with me the whole time,” Katie said. “She helped me
come up with a plan I was comfortable with, and gave me time to attempt
a natural birth. When I decided to make a change, she supported me through
To Mary, being flexible is part of the pregnancy experience. Filling out
a birth plan at around 35 weeks can help mothers figure out what they
want, but they should still be prepared to go with the unexpected.
“Think about what options are available, and even who you want in
the room,” Mary said. “Having a general sense of what you
want is great, but accepting things as they come is just as important.
Know that we’ll support you in whatever decisions you make.”
At St. Luke’s, some of the options to consider include breathing
exercises, massage, nitrous oxide and other methods of pain management,
and even what music you want playing. This year, St. Luke’s will
unveil a renovated birthing center that includes tubs in every room and
private bathrooms. It’s one more way that mothers can be at the
center of the birthing experience.
No matter who an expectant mother chooses as her OB provider, feeling that
trust and having a personal connection can help. It’s something
Mary says she sees in the professionals at St. Luke’s Obstetrics
& Gynecology Associates she works alongside every day.
“I can’t say enough about the high level of dedication and
commitment our group of women’s health providers offer our patients
and their families,” Mary said. “They’re always so willing
to teach and support each other and their patients.”
BELOW: Mary Johnson, St. Luke's midwife