Meet a midwife from Hartland

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rachel Knudson is a midwife based in Hartland. She owns Gentle Hands Midwifery. She maintains a Facebook page, too. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Rachel Knudson is a midwife based in Hartland. She owns Gentle Hands Midwifery. She maintains a Facebook page, too. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

HARTLAND — When she was a child Rachel Knudson saw film of a baby being born. She asked her parents what kind of job helps women deliver babies.

“I have always wanted to work with birthing women,” she said.

She went to college with plans to become a doctor but found Western medicine wasn’t for her. Instead, she became a midwife. The 35-year-old is the owner of Gentle Hands Midwifery, based north of Hartland at her home, 68846 327th St.

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Her home, however, isn’t where she does most of her work. She goes to the homes of the pregnant women she serves.

An obstetrician makes the rounds in a hospital and might see the expecting mothers for five to 10 minutes. A midwife, Knudson said, might spend two or three hours during visits. They develop trust.

“I really like the relationships I get to build with my clients,” she said.

Even during labor, nurses are keeping doctors informed of the mother’s progress. The doctor swoops in during pushing to deliver the baby. Sometimes, the doctor a mother might have seen during the pregnancy isn’t the one who delivers the baby.

A midwife, she said, is in the room the entire time of labor.

“My clients like the continuity of care,” Knudson said.

Midwives work exclusively with low-risk families. Someone expecting triplets or facing health problems likely isn’t going to seek a midwife.

Couples choosing birth with a midwife instead of a doctor do so for these common reasons:

• They want to give birth to the baby in their home, perhaps because of tradition or for religious customs.

• They are concerned about the high rate of Caesarian sections given in hospitals. As recently as 2009, the C-section rate was one in three women.

• They do not want to be treated as a patient, which is what some women feel when in hospitals. Being pregnant is not an illness; it is normal.

Midwives, she said, have a reputation for focusing on nutrition and fitness of the expecting family during pregnancy, in addition to monitoring the usual signs such as blood pressure, heart rate and baby position. She said midwives are highly successful at helping mothers lactate by birth.

They visit once a month until 28 weeks, then every other week until 36 weeks, then weekly. They prepare a room in the home for the birth so when the mother goes into labor, everything is ready. The midwife knows how to deliver the child, and if complications arise, an ambulance is called.

Midwives do not induce birth with medicine. Knudson said many mothers feel it is better to let the baby determine when it wants to come out. Midwives also do not offer painkillers.

The midwife stays afterward to examine the newborn and make sure the mother is healthy and nursing. There are five postpartum visits.

“It’s not always an easy job, but it is incredible,” she said.

Knudson has delivered about 100 babies. She assisted with an additional 100 births during her apprenticeship in New Mexico.

She went to school at the National College of Midwifery, in Taos, N.M., and the House of the Matrona in Asheville, N.C. In Minnesota, midwives are not required to be licensed.

She charges a flat fee of $3,000. Consultations are free. She accepts clients within a two-hour drive. She also can make arrangements for water birth.

Gentle Hands Midwifery can be reached at 507-845-2554.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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