Midwives are common around the world for expecting mothers, but less so in the United States – where only 8% of births are attended by a midwife, and the service isn’t readily available or understood by many of us.
A Ventura County hospital is leading the way with an in-hospital birth center staffed by midwives.
Listening to baby’s heartbeat with this mom-to-be, Jodi Watson is a certified nurse midwife at Santa Paula Hospital.
In fact, she’s one of around just six nurse midwives in the whole of Ventura County.
"Midwives are really old practitioners, " Watson explains to KCLU. "There are different versions of midwives, especially here in the United States. Myself as a Nurse Midwife, I work mainly in a hospital setting.
"Fortunately here at Santa Paula we are able to create an in-hospital birth center hybrid, for women who want that birth center feel but may need to have access to a hospital.
"Nurse Midwives are pretty much experts in low-risk maternal health, pregnancy and childbirth."
Last year, the area’s first in-hospital birth center to be staffed by certified nurse midwives opened – after the community rallied against the closure of the OB unit at Santa Paula Hospital.
For 36-week pregnant Brittney Nevison De Alba – it provided a choice of care for pregnancy and delivery which was more holistic
"I feel like they are the perfect blend of feeling protected and getting everything done for the baby and for you - and also you're getting that super important emotional support," Nevison De Alba told KCLU.
Just 8% of births in the US are attended by midwives, compared to 2/3rds of births in the UK and other countries.
Research shows that using a midwife often leads to better outcomes for mothers and babies – with fewer C-sections, or episiotomies and they are more likely to breast feed.
But Jodi says that because midwives are less common in the US, moms to be aren’t always aware of the benefits.
"It can sometimes be really confusing for patients. 'If I have a midwife will that mean that I won't have an epidural? Will I not have any pain management? Do I have to be in a tub at my house'" she said are some of the common misconceptions.
"Here are Santa Paula we have the ability to have a tub here, you have a shower, a queen-sized bed. We can create that birth center environment and still have accessibility to the hospital features," says Watson.
She explained that as well as the birthing options, the midwives provide pre-natal and childbirth educational courses for parents-to-be.
"We get to spend a lot more time teaching our patients a lot of information and really preparing them for that big day.
"Women walk into their birth feeling very much prepared. We are there to support them through the entire process."