Midwifery: Personalized care for women

“As soon as I met her, I knew I wanted her to deliver my boys.”

That was Keatyn Diekemper’s first thought upon meeting Sylvia Obernuefemann, a certified nurse midwife, at Memorial Hospital in Shiloh, Ill. Obernuefemann had delivered Diekemper’s sister’s children, and the two bonded even before Diekemper was pregnant with her first child.

“I just fell in love with her. She really cares about her patients,” said Diekemper, who had her two children, Knox in 2019 and Riggs in 2023, with the midwife’s help at Memorial, a BJC HealthCare hospital.

Memorial Hospital is one of multiple BJC hospitals where midwives and doctors are sharing birthing spaces. Midwives are trained to provide support and personalized care for women during pregnancy, labor and delivery. But they do much more than pregnancy care.

Why choose a midwife

Midwives provide comprehensive care for women. That can include providing gynecological support for all ages and educating parents with adolescent daughters to help them cultivate an early relationship with health providers. One demographic they are passionate about is teenagers, often engaging in get-to-know-you visits to get young women comfortable with the system.

While midwifery is growing in popularity in the U.S. — in 2021, midwives attended 12% of U.S. births — it’s less common than in other developed countries like England where midwives are the lead care providers at more than half of all births.

Midwives, who are extensively trained and have nursing degrees, typically take a more holistic approach to pregnancy and birthing, guiding moms-to-be with everything from mental wellness and nutrition to emotional support and helping them gain more control of their birthing plans.

“We have more time than other medical professionals to sit and talk to a patient and get to know them,” said Obernuefemann. “It’s more personalized, which is the biggest differentiator for prenatal care.”

In some ways, midwives are the best of both worlds, says Jennifer Feder, a BJC Medical Group certified nurse midwife who delivers at Memorial Hospital. “Having a midwife delivery in a hospital setting, a mom can have the extra support and personalized care that a midwife offers with the backup of the hospital staff in case something goes wrong.”

An ally to navigate the uncertainty of pregnancy, labor and delivery

For Diekemper, this was an ideal prospect—and one that proved to be critical after the birth of her first child. A reaction to her planned epidural left her unable to walk for a week after her oldest son was born. While she was grateful for the positive experience with the hospital staff, Diekemper said it was Obernuefemann who checked on her constantly during and after the delivery to ensure there were no other complications.

“I had my second son naturally after that experience, and the whole team at the hospital was so supportive,” Diekemper said. “They left it up to me to know what was right for my body.”

This is the growing appeal of midwifery support: The ability for moms to have a trained advocate who can help them navigate the often-complex birthing process. And the benefits to mom and baby are also undeniable—according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, women who use midwives can have a decreased risk of needing a Cesarean section, reduced rates of induced or assisted labor, reduced use of regional anesthesia and decreased infant mortality rates, among others.

Midwives have been delivering babies at Memorial Hospital for many years. They see patients who have never even heard of midwifery, Obernuefemann said. But through many women’s positive experiences and word of mouth, the idea of a midwife is gaining more traction.

Obernuefemann recently celebrated her well-deserved retirement, but her presence and practices have left a lasting legacy for BJC and the midwives following in her footsteps. By demonstrating how a midwife can support women, she’s set a path forward that her colleagues can continue forging with confidence.

“The women who come to us can have their babies however they want. We’ll just make sure they get what they need and that everyone is safe,” she said.

Is a Midwife Right for You? (Video)

Is a Midwife Right for You?

Learn the advantages of having a midwife at your delivery.