Teenage Girls Need Midwives, Too
Midwives can play a critical role in the transitional stages of a woman’s development, especially the uncharted terrains of puberty, pregnancy and menopause when everything is in flux. Being prepared and anticipating these changes eases the process dramatically and decreases fear and anxiety. Knowledge ultimately empowers women to trust their bodies and to engage in preventive and health sustaining practices.
A quick look at the etymology of the word midwife shows it to mean “with woman.” Today’s midwives enjoy a much broader scope of practice, which includes all the health issues that modern women and teens face. Midwives are with every woman in a personal, caring and non-judgmental way.
Midwives prepare young women to care for their bodies
Midwifery care is culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate and respects the growing independence, privacy and learning needs of the maturing girl. A good example of this kind of mentoring and guidance is an exercise we do with our pre-college patients. We guide them in gathering their personal medical history and family history through discussions with parents and grandparents. The knowledge obtained in this exercise starts them on the road to assuming an active role in taking care of their health.
Very often a young girl may feel more at ease talking to someone outside her family, and midwives are comfortable initiating conversations that other people in a teen’s life tend to avoid. This is evident in the questions we ask, the language we use, the time we spend listening, and in our thoroughness in conducting the physical exams. A midwife can act as a transitional figure, providing support for, and offering knowledge to, a girl when she is ready to hear it. Though we maintain complete confidentiality, we help girls think about how to maintain and even improve communication with their parents.
Media misinformation is unhealthy
In our current culture, many girls form images of their bodies and their sexuality through the media. They compare themselves to singers, socialites and starlets, who define beauty and popularity for them; they are encouraged not to identify their own needs and self-image but, rather, to conform to what the media deems acceptable and preferable. Information that girls rely on, from the Internet or friends, is not always vetted or accurate. Midwives believe it is okay to want to know about your body and as our young clients grow, we add age-appropriate tools to their tool box. In addition to their reproductive health, we discuss nutrition, relationships, stress management, exercise and body image.
Such authentic information on sexuality and reproduction should not be compared to a driver’s license but rather to a toolbox and road map. Many of the conditions and situations troubling the adolescents who come to our office could have been prevented through the kind of education that empowers the individual to make better choices.
Midwifery care: an important support system for young women
The holistic and integrative approach to health care practiced by midwives prepares young women for the promotion of healthy behaviors through all phases of a woman’s life. Certified Nurse Midwives in New York State are independent licensed practitioners. We perform annual physical exams for school and camp. We prescribe medication, order lab and diagnostic tests, give immunizations and make referrals to other physicians and healers. We work collaboratively with many specialists, both conventional and complementary, and have board certified ob/gyn physician consultants available at all times.
With all that modern medicine has learned about the causes and treatment of chronic disease, we know that prevention is the best cure. Beginning midwifery care from the early teenage years onward is one way to ensure that the next generation of women will be healthier, more responsible and better able to pass along good information to their children.
We hope all mothers will support their daughters’ passage to womanhood by helping them forge a lifelong relationship with caring, knowledgeable midwives.