Midwives: A Living Tradition Video

A video produced by Cassandra Doughty and Valerie Ann Toizer in 1998 (68:30 min.)
$30 includes shipping.

Reviewed by Susan Hodges in the Citizens for Midwifery News, Vol. 4, Issue 2, April 1999

What is a midwife? What do midwives do? How do they do it? Where do they do it? Why do they practice? What is it like to be cared for by a midwife during pregnancy and childbirth? This video answers all of these questions in an informative tapestry of midwives in action as well as talking about their work and philosophy, along with actual births and mothers talking about their birth experiences. Although somewhat long,the video provides an excellent introduction to the kind of care midwives can provide in various settings, and the benefits of that care for mothers and babies.

Broken into sections by a humorous and homey cartoon story, the video includes both nurse-midwives and direct entry midwives – eight in all. The several different nurse midwives each have distinctive practices in particular settings, from an inner city hospital city, to a small town birth center and home birth practice, to a Native American home birth midwife. Woven throughout the midwives' narratives are a number of home and birth center births, including a water birth at the end. Thank you to these women and families who have shared their special moments with all of us.

Comments and discussion throughout cover the many issues, such as the positive effects of midwifery care on pain, the benefits of natural (drug and intervention-free) childbirth, the special benefits of emotional support provided by the midwives, safety considerations, and the importance for the mother to be able to choose the setting in which she feels safest and most comfortable.

The video includes a number of different kinds of midwives as well as each of them helping one or more mothers give birth a valuable feature allowed by the length of the video. The careful observer will note the subtle differences in their styles of care. However, the recurrent theme is that birth is both normal and absolutely miraculous. As one of the CNMs summarizes near the end what all midwives have in common is their belief in the innate ability of women to give birth. The video demonstrates how this fundamental belief shapes the kind of care these midwives provide regardless of their credentials.

The birth segments naturally do include fairly explicit but appropriate nudity. In my opinion, this video would be appropriate for mature high school classes and anyone else who would like in-depth information about midwives and the care they can provide along with some examples of natural childbirth in relaxed settings. It would provide a great basis for discussion about the Midwifery Model of Care, and why the kind of care being given is more important than the initials after someone's name.