Special Delivery: Why Philly Moms Are Choosing Midwives

In a city brimming with world-class physicians, more and more moms-to-be are choosing midwives. But why?

Mindy Drossner used midwives to deliver Maya, 7, and Brandon, 3.

For Mindy Drossner and her husband, Michael, using a midwife to deliver their two kids was a no-brainer. They liked the homey environment and private suites at Bryn Mawr’s midwife-run Birth Center. Plus, Drossner wanted to give birth sans drugs, and thought that would be easier under the care of a midwife, whose goal is to usher women through delivery epidural-free. “Women have had babies like this forever,” says Drossner, 35. “If they could do it, I could, too.”

Drossner’s part of a growing trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, midwives deliver more than eight percent of all babies born in the U.S., an all-time high; in Pennsylvania, it’s 9.1 percent. Cynthia Flynn, executive director of the Birth Center, says her team attended 315 births in 2003 but this year expects that number to rise to 538—a 71 percent uptick. Chester County home-birth midwife Kate Aseron says she reaches her five-births-a-month capacity easily.

So what’s driving this midwife mania? Partly, the Whole Foods effect—a shift to all things natural, holistic, organic. And celebs like Gisele Bündchen and Ricki Lake (see: The Business of Being Born) have pushed midwives to the mainstream.

But a huge motivator, experts say, may be the rising rate of cesarean births, now at about a third of all births nationally. Many women like that midwives are often more willing to let them labor naturally, rather than opt for a C-section if the birth doesn’t progress as quickly as expected. Midwives view childbirth as a natural process the body is equipped to handle on its own—most times without medical intervention.

Still, most maintain good relationships with doctors—some even practice in hospitals, as at the Birthing Suite at Pennsylvania Hospital—in case transfers become necessary. Flynn says her moms are usually admitted to hospitals for slow-progressing labors, not emergencies.

After laboring with her son for 48 hours, Drossner was transferred to Bryn Mawr Hospital, where doctors were prepping to wheel her into surgery. “That was the motivation I needed,” she says. Brandon was born within minutes.

“I was like, Hey, I can do this—and I did,” says Drossner. “It’s very empowering.”