Since 1990, the number of women giving birth with a midwife has doubled, signaling a growing trend among women who seek a more natural -- as opposed to medical -- childbirth.
While only 4 percent of women gave birth with a midwife in 1990, 8 percent of women chose a midwife in 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Pregnancy and birth are expensive when it comes to medical care, so insurance coverage plays a major role in the decision for a lot of families. Many insurance companies do cover the use of a midwife, as long as she is licensed and working in a hospital or birthing center. Coverage for midwives who are not certified, or who work outside of a hospital setting, is less widespread and varies by state and health plan.
However, the major reason why most families chose a midwife was to experience a more natural birth. Contrary to traditional hospital births, midwives generally encourage using drug-free, natural methods of childbirth.
Those who have used a midwife describe the experience as soothing and private, and say having the freedom to go through labor and give birth in a way that feels comfortable to them, such as in a bathtub, was empowering.
The United States and Canada are the only countries in the world where highly trained surgeons called obstetricians attend the majority of normal births.
Cesarean section can save the life of the mother or her baby. Cesarean section can also kill a mother or her baby. How can this be? Because every single procedure or technology used during pregnancy and birth carries risks, both for mother and baby. The decision to use technology is a judgment call -- it may either make things better or worse.
Merely putting yourself in the hands of a high-tech doctor and a high-tech hospital does not guarantee you the safest birth. You yourself must take responsibility for your own child's birth, including the decision to have technology used on you and your baby.
There is not a single report in the scientific literature that shows obstetricians to be safer than midwives for low risk or normal pregnancy and birth. So if you are among the over 75 percent of all women with a normal pregnancy, the safest birth attendant for you is not a doctor but a midwife.