ROY -- Taralee Litster arrived at her doctor's office for a routine pregnancy exam, expecting to see her obstetrician. Instead, she found out she would be seeing a certified nurse midwife at the clinic.
"My doctor was out delivering a baby, so they told me I could see a midwife if I wanted to -- so I said that would be fine," said Litster, 33, of Roy. "I was so impressed, I decided to stay with her."
Thousands of women are now choosing certified nurse midwives to care for them and deliver their babies. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of women in the U.S. choosing certified nurse midwives has more than doubled since 1990.
It also reported that a record-high number of certified nurse midwives attended to 317,168 births in 2006, which are the latest available figures.
"People often have an image of a midwife as a birth attendant for a home birth," said Mari Stuart, a certified nurse midwife and women's health nurse practitioner at Ogden Clinic's Grand View office in Roy.
"Individuals that attend home births are generally identified as lay midwives and often have no formal education or training."
What is a CNM?
On the other hand, Stuart said, certified nurse midwives are licensed and certified professionals who are qualified to care for women who experience normal pregnancies, as well as women seeking gynecologic care.
"Certified nurse midwives perform essentially the same function as an MD practicing obstetrics and gynecology, except for surgery and complicated, high-risk births," Stuart said. "CNMs hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's degree in nursing with a focus on midwifery. Most CNMs have experience as a labor and delivery nurse."
Litster, who is using Stuart to deliver her fourth child, due in March, said she likes the fact that she doesn't have to wait long to be seen. She also likes the quality time a midwife provides.
"She was so friendly and knowledgeable and competent," she said. "I seemed to relate to her really well, and she spends a good amount of time with me during each visit."
At first, Litster had reservations about seeing a nurse midwife because of the stereotypes.
For instance, she didn't know if she would be able to have an epidural to block her pain during delivery. She had also heard that midwives only deliver babies in a home.
Stuart said there are several myths and misconceptions surrounding her profession -- such as that midwives cannot prescribe medication, can only care for pregnant women, are not covered by insurance and cannot practice independently from a physician.
Christy Francis, a certified nurse midwife at the Women's and Children's Center at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said the most common misconception for midwives is that they only deliver babies at home.
"Certified Nurse Midwives deliver babies in the hospital or in birthing centers. We don't deliver at home," she said. "Patients typically prefer a midwife if they are looking for a more natural delivery, or if they want us present for more time during their labor. We also tend to spend more time educating patients in the office during visits so they know how to better care for themselves and their babies during pregnancy."
Francis said midwives are able to treat some complications such as gestational diabetes, as long as it is diet-controlled. Complications such as cardiomyopathy and toxemia are sent to a physician.
Francis said a midwife salary varies widely according to patient volume and other overhead office costs. According to CNNmoney.com the average salary of a nurse midwife in the U.S. is approximately $89,000 per year.
If women are seeking personalized care, Stuart and Francis said, a nurse midwife is an excellent choice. Not only are they capable of providing care for general health as well as during pregnancy and childbirth, they can continue to care for women throughout their lives.
"I'm really glad I chose to use a midwife this time, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for quality time and care," said Litster.