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Delivering Individualized Care for Expecting Mothers

Category: Patient Stories
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Mary Johnson, St. Luke's midwifePublished 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 Aspirus 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 that, too.”

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.”