|Ocala, FL -
January 16, 2012|
Published in the Ocala Star-Banner on Monday, January 16, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
During the past 30 years, nearly 14,000 babies have been carefully delivered by registered nurses with Midwives of Ocala, which is part of Munroe Regional Medical Center.
“Birth is just really exciting, and it's a privilege to participate in that important time in a woman's life,” said Leigh Baker, Midwives of Ocala director and a registered nurse.
Baker said the program was started in 1981 by a group of midwives who treated low-risk patients at the health department.
Pam Michell, vice president/chief nursing officer at Munroe Regional, said she helped collaborate the midwifery program with the OB/GYN doctors in the community at the time.
“There were not enough obstetricians to take care of these low-risk patients who couldn't afford care and, at the time, those patients left Marion County and went to Shands for their care and to deliver. By allowing midwives to keep the low-risk patients here, they have offered a tremendous opportunity to moms and it has been fun to watch the program grow,” she said.
“It's been a cultural change, not only for Marion County and Ocala, but also for Florida and the rest of the country. The role of the nurse midwife has become more accepted through the providers in the community, and this allows more people to have better access to pre- and post-natal care,” Michell added.
The midwives group averages between 300 and 600 births a year. After delivering, many of the mothers return for Pap tests and routine gynecological care.
“We take care of the whole patient, and spend time talking about the family and not just medical issues. That is what brings them back, because it allows us to educate more,” said Barbara Bigby, a certified nurse midwife for 37 years, 13 of those with Midwives of Ocala.
Bigby emphasized that patients receive the same tests and exams as at a physician's office, and said a midwife is available 24 hours a day for questions. She said a midwife will often stay with a mother during the whole birth process and not just come in to deliver the baby.
“They love that we are going to be near to help them,” she said.
Patient Diane Cueva said that during her first pregnancy, while living in New York, she first visited a doctor, but wasn't satisfied with the level of care, so she transferred to a midwife for the rest of her pregnancy.
“For me, a woman understands a woman's body more. You feel more of a connection and you feel more comfortable because of the one-on-one relationship. Here, they are caring and when you come in everybody gets to know you,” she said.
Now pregnant with her third child, Cueva will be having her second delivery with the local midwives.
“I've never had to worry about (upcoming) appointments because there was already a timeline for each visit and I knew what was going to happen with every step of my care. Everything was explained to me,” she said.
Patient Ann Tucker said she really appreciated how the midwives catered to her individual needs. She said during her pregnancy, a blood test revealed low iron levels, but she was hesitant to take a supplement. The midwives educated her on nutrition and gave her a list of foods that would naturally increase iron levels in the blood, she said.
Tucker delivered daughter Addison Sexton and made sure to bring her along during follow-up appointments because everyone wanted to see her.
“I just loved the whole experience because they have been through this already and they all have kids. They do this because they love it. I'm going to put her baby photo up on the wall so she can see herself every time I have an appointment,” Tucker said.
Baker said the midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and are licensed as state registered nurse practitioners. The midwives at the center do not participate in home deliveries and all the babies — 13,896 to date — are born at the hospital.
“Although we've been in the community for a long time and patients are more knowledgeable about midwives, we are constantly trying to shake the concept of a granny midwife arriving in a horse-drawn carriage with a black bag,” Baker said.
Barbara Bigby, a certified nurse midwife, listens to the heartbeat of Diane Cueva's baby at
Munroe Regional Medical Center Midwives of Ocala in Ocala on Dec. 15.