The growing popularity of midwifery care is partially a response to rising Caesarean rates, says Eugene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University who studies American maternity care. Currently, around a third of all births in the U.S. are Cesarean sections, a number far higher than the World Health Organization-recommended target of 10 to 15 percent. The inflated rate is due in part to longstanding misperceptions in the U.S. medical community about how quickly labor should progress and when medical intervention is necessary.
According to Declercq, the high rates of surgery and other unneeded interventions have led to increased interest in the midwifery model, which is lower-tech, less invasive, and less inclined toward intervention without a clear medical need; a 2011 study in the journal Nursing Economics found that births led by midwives in collaboration with physicians are less likely to end in a C-section than births led by obstetricians alone. According to Ginger Breedlove, the president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the real reason for this difference is in the approach to care: Midwives typically promote patience with the natural progress of labor and discourage intervention to speed the birth process. “It’s a different model,” she explains.
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