Ask the Expert Jodie Simms-MacLeod, CNM, NP-C - Midwifery Director, University Midwives

In July, University Midwives opened its practice at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. Midwifery Director Jodie Simms-MacLeod, CNM, NP-C, tells us about the newly birthed practice and how midwives can help women and families live happier, healthier lives.

What is a midwife?

A midwife is a health care professional who specializes in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care and women's sexual and reproductive health. As part of the medical center’s Women & Infants Center of Excellence, University Midwives currently has three certified nurse midwives (CNMs), with two more nurse midwives joining the practice this winter. A CNM is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in midwifery. Our midwives have many years of experience practicing in Knoxville and around the country.

While we're an independent office, we work hand-in-hand with our physician colleagues. Our goal is to provide the highest quality personalized care for women and their families.

Certified Nurse Midwives take a relationship-based approach, taking longer visits with our patients so we can really get to know them. We also look at our patients holistically, focusing on the health of their minds, bodies and spirits.

Do midwives only work with pregnant women?

No, midwives specialize in working with women at all ages and stages of their lives, from their teens until menopause and beyond.

We attend births, of course, but we also perform annual physical exams, provide birth control counseling and write prescriptions. While there's a myth floating around that midwives only work with healthy pregnant women, in reality more than 80 percent of women qualify for a midwife's care.

How do midwives support women during pregnancy?

A good part of our training focuses on caring for women during pregnancy, labor and delivery. During that time, we provide one-on-one care, supporting them not just from a medical perspective, but physically and emotionally, too.

We deeply understand natural, unmedicated labor and delivery, but we also support women in every birth experience, including those who want epidurals or nitrous for pain relief.

We aren't surgeons, so we don't do operations like C-sections, but we collaborate with an OB/GYN physician group who is always available if one is necessary. In fact, research shows that being cared for by a certified nurse midwife actually decreases your risk of having a cesarean.

We are well equipped to handle any medical need that arises for women and their babies. For babies who have unexpected complications and need extra assistance, the medical center has the region's only private-room, Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s located down the hall from Labor and Delivery and the Mother/Baby unit, so the family can all stay together.

The medical center also has the unique designation of being the regional neonatal referral center for East Tennessee and the surrounding area. The unit is staffed by board-certified neonatologists (pediatricians with special training to care for premature and sick newborns), and at least one of them is in the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s in addition to emergency, laboratory and other specialized services—it’s really the only nursery of its kind in the region.

What about preconception counseling?

More and more families are getting preconception counseling. We work with moms and families to prepare them for a healthy, successful pregnancy and birth.

We start by doing a health screening to make sure moms are up-to-date on their exams, like an annual, as well as their immunizations. We discuss nutrition, offer genetic carrier screening, and provide recommendations. If we find out that there's an issue with infertility, we help with lab work and counseling. We also talk with the woman and her family about their lifestyle and discuss factors that might be impacting fertility, like diet or smoking.

Preconception counseling is a nice way for families to educate themselves while they're trying to get pregnant.

For more information on our certified nurse midwives, or to become a patient, visit University Midwives or call 865-305-4305.

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