Midwives are growing in popularity as the caregivers of choice among expectant mothers, with the number of midwife-attended births in the United States doubling between 1991 and 2008. Fueling the trend is the shortage of obstetricians and the low-cost of midwife services for women with no health insurance.
New mother Tiana Marrero meets with a midwife.
Marrero gave birth to her son three months ago after entering a new program where Certified Nurse Midwives guide women through the challenges of pregnancy.
"Whatever problems you had - especially the first time mom or pregnant for the first time - they calm you down from it, like where mothers would be all panicky," Marrero said.
Marrero still visits this clinic to follow-up with the five midwives from the program, which was established by the Orange County Health Department in Florida.
Nineteen-year-old Anesta Stevens and her fiance are expecting their first baby. Stevens says the midwives offer reassurance. "I'm always afraid that, 'ok, I'm going to give birth and then the baby is going to survive and I'm not.' So that's the nerve-wracking part," she said.
Local health officials say many participants in the midwife program do not have health insurance and cannot afford to visit a doctor. Working with a midwife is often less expensive for the patient than traditional physician-only care.
And professional organizations representing obstetricians say a shortage of such doctors often makes it difficult - even for women who can pay - to get an appointment.
So midwife Caprice Wright says it is important women have an alternative. "I don't want doctors to ever feel that we're trying to take over their specialty, because we're not. We're here to help them, were an extension for them - giving their patients another option," Wright said.
The Orange County Health Department says so far just ten percent of women in its program have needed cesarean delivery, and there have been only a small number babies born underweight - evidence, officials say, of the program's success.