Selected Podcast

Questions to Ask When Considering a Midwife

Oroville Hospital offers a superior childbirth experience with the addition of midwifery services. As certified practitioners, midwives are extensively trained to guide women through pregnancy, childbirth and the period after birth.

Kerry Eldridge, CNM, NP clears up some myths about midwives and discusses childbirth preparation classes for parents available at Oroville Hospital.
Questions to Ask When Considering a Midwife
Kerry Eldridge, CNM, NP
Kerry is a Board Certified Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and is the Manager of the Midwives program at Oroville Hospital, with over 30 years of experience in the area of Women’s health care. She Graduated from California State University Chico in 1986, and went to work as an RN, at Oroville Hospital that same year. She began working as a Labor and Delivery Nurse in 1987 at Oroville Hospital, and taught Childbirth Preparation classes through Butte College for 6 years, before returning to school to pursue Midwifery in 2000. She attended Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, and earned her Certificate in Midwifery and Women’s Health Care in 2004. She has worked as a CNM and NP since then, in many of the area hospitals, which she feels has given her a unique perspective into what constitutes excellence in Midwifery Services. She began working to develop a full scope Midwifery Service at Oroville Hospital in the spring of 2016.

Melanie Cole (Host): When you find out you're pregnant, it's such an exciting time, and you want to start looking for a practitioner to care for you during your pregnancy, the birth of your baby, and beyond. Many people know what an obstetrician gynecologist is, but not everyone knows what a midwife does. Here to tell us about midwifery is my guest, Kerry Eldridge. She's a certified nurse midwife, and the Midwife Program Manager at Oroville Hospital. Kerry, briefly explain for the listeners what a midwife is, and what are some of the hallmarks of midwifery?

Kerry Eldridge, CNM, MP (Guest): Sure, thanks. Well, I think there are kind of a lot of myths or misunderstandings regarding what a midwife is. You know, we've been around since forever, and so- but midwifery has made great advances, and at this point in time there are highly trained, well-educated professional midwifes available for women to choose to be their practitioner when they do get pregnant and are planning to have a baby.

So a midwife can have a variety of educational backgrounds. Here at Oroville Hospital, our midwifes are certified nurse midwives, and so what that means is that they have attended an accredited university, and that is a postbaccalaureate degree. Most of us have Master’s degrees, and then we're certified by our national professional organization, the American College of Nurse Midwives. We take an exam which gives us the designation of being board certified.

So then we're licensed by the state of California, so then that's how we get the designation of certified nurse midwives. Our midwives are first RNs, and then after they become RNs, they become midwives. Midwives are very similar to OBs in the services that we can provide, but there is a little bit of a difference in that women find that midwifery care is maybe a little bit more satisfying because of just the relationship that can be developed there with the midwife. Midwives are women, so we understand a lot of what women are going through, and then one of the hallmarks of midwifery of course is to educate and empower our patients so that they can be a part of their care, and that they can have the kind of birth that they're looking for, and get the kind of care that allows them to express their concerns and their questions and spend a little bit more time talking with their provider.

Melanie: Kerry, let's break up some of the myths about midwives that people may have or have had over the years, such as do they only do home births? Do you only serve pregnant women and not there after the delivery? Can you have an epidural? Answer some of these myths and bust them up for us.

Kerry: Sure, absolutely. About 95% of certified nurse midwives deliver babies in hospitals as opposed to home births. So it's actually a very small percentage at this point in time of midwives who are doing home births. So midwives are- certified nurse midwives are able to- they have admitting privileges at the hospital, they're able to write orders and order medications. So while we definitely support a natural childbirth, we want to provide all of the education that you need for that choice, there's nothing to say that you can't have pain medication in labor, and that includes an epidural.

So you know, for some women, the idea of natural childbirth is an absolute. They're going to do that, and that's what they have in their mind, and that's their choice. And for other women, they know themselves and they know that that's not going to be something that they're going to be able to do. So we definitely offer the full range of medications as well as education and support for natural childbirth.

Melanie: How does a midwife work with an obstetrician gynecologist or other providers? And what if there's an emergency, Kerry, during birth? What if they need a C-section or something happens? What does a midwife do in that case?

Kerry: Right. Well, midwives can handle all of the normal kinds of things including the prenatal care, the labor and delivery, the postpartum care, but we always work with a back-up OB/GYN on call at all times. So here at Oroville Hospital, we have a 24/7 midwife service, and so we will handle just about everything, but in the event of a high risk situation, we can always consult with our OB/GYNs that we work with. And then in the case of an emergency, there is always a 24/7 back-up OB doctor on call, and we have a great relationship with our back-up physicians, and so they are always here promptly, immediately when we need them.

If a woman has an emergency like that, or say for example a Cesarean, the midwife will stay with the woman and continue to be part of her care. The midwives at Oroville Hospital are also first assistants for the Cesarean, so your midwife will actually come in and help with the Cesarean, and then continue the care afterwards.

I know that you asked me about the myth that midwives only deliver babies, and I definitely want to dispel that one because midwives do the full range of women's healthcare. So that includes the well women visits, family planning, infection checks, menopause care. So we are able to offer the full scope of women's health services.

Melanie: And that includes even after birth, right? Helping the woman adjust in postnatal care.

Kerry: Correct. Correct, and we see the women at a minimum of twice in the office. Of course we'll see her in the hospital every day that she's there, and then we'll schedule at least two follow-up visits for the postpartum period. We've recently added- because we know nationally, and worldwide really, that postpartum depression and anxiety is a real thing, and that a large- I think it's 25% at least of women are affected by this problem.

And so here at Oroville Hospital, we have recently added a mental well-being clinic so that our patients, if they do need counseling and that type of support, that we're able to immediately get them in for some outpatient counseling.

Melanie: Kerry, one of the concerns people might have when considering using a midwife is does insurance cover it?

Kerry: Absolutely. Yes, insurance- all of the major insurances cover certified nurse midwives. Now like I was saying before, there are different levels of midwives, everything from lay midwives in the community who may be self-taught, who may be apprentice trained, that kind of thing, and probably in those situations- and there are probably the midwives that are doing home births. In those kinds of situations, insurances won't cover those midwives. However, all of the certified nurse midwives that are affiliated with either a hospital or in some cases with a birth clinic, yes our services are fully reimbursed exactly the same as a physician.

Melanie: Tell us about your childbirth preparation classes for new parents.

Kerry: Right. We're really proud of our childbirth preparation classes. We have- we offer free of charge to our patients a six-week prepared childbirth class. It meets weekly starting usually when a woman is somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty weeks gestation, and then they'll get together with another group of women and their support people weekly, and the classes are taught by two RNs from the OB department who are very passionate about teaching this course and love doing it, very excited about doing it. They make it fun, they make it interesting. They're also certified breastfeeding educators and consultants, so they can really help out with that issue.

But the classes cover everything from preparation for natural childbirth, what if you don't want natural childbirth, what's available? Positions for pushing, positions for comfort, nutrition in pregnancy, as well as newborn feeding and safety issues.

Melanie: Wrap it up for us with your best advice. As patients ask you all the time, "What is a nurse midwife? What do you do?" Tell them what you would like them to know about a nurse midwife and how she can help a woman through all stages of women's healthcare.

Kerry: Right. Well, midwives are highly trained, highly educated specialists in women's health. We attend a Master's program to make sure that we're prepared to do this kind of work, we work closely with OB/GYNs in consultation with them. But we offer a full range of women's healthcare from prenatal care, labor and delivery services, postpartum care, family planning, well women visits. We offer pap smears, and mammograms, menopause care, and we are very tuned in as women to what it is that women are needing, and what it is that they are wanting from a provider, which is beyond being willing to listen to the patients and have conversations with the patients.

We also are very concerned with educating and empowering our patients so that she can be part of her healthcare team, and her needs, and her wishes, and her thoughts are taken into consideration.

Melanie: So important. Thank you, Kerry, for being with us today and explaining what a nurse midwife does and clearing up some of those myths that people might have, misconceptions about a midwife. Thanks again for joining us. You're listening to Growing Healthy Together, a podcast by Oroville Hospital. For more information, please visit That's This is Melanie Cole, thanks so much for listening.