Sherman Oaks resident leads in midwifery at Cedars Sinai

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amandatraxler110x1101BY AMANDA TRAXLER

As a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Sherman Oaks resident Deborah Frank knows about waiting patiently–a skill that likely came in handy over the past three decades as she waited for hospital privileges at Cedars Sinai Medical Center (CSMC). Having first applied for privileges in 1982, Frank is now the first private-practice nurse-midwife on staff at CSMC.

Deborah Frank

Deborah Frank

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was going to take 28 years. I think it’s great that they’ve opened the doors, because to me it’s about women having options.”

Not that her time was spent idly. Over the course of her career, Frank, who also has staff privileges at the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center-has attended about 2,000 births.

According to Frank, midwives “are the experts in normal birth. That’s where our interest and our enthusiasm lies.”

Though each midwifery practice has its own characteristics, Frank said that one benefit to her approach is the amount of time she takes to get to know her patients. An initial appointment will last an hour, with follow-ups typically taking a half-hour.

“The medical portion of those visits doesn’t take that long, the rest of the time is for answering questions and getting to know them, I think the more opportunity to get to know them, and them to know us, the more helpful we can be to them when they are in labor.”

Other benefits to midwifery include a more holistic approach to pregnancy and birth that includes not only house calls to help a woman determine when she is ready to go to the hospital, but also waiting with women at their bedside until a baby is born.

At the bedside, other advantages of midwifery are brought to fruition. Having someone familiar to them at their bedside diminishes anxiety, Frank said. “The body is much more able to do the work it needs to do, so often there is less need for intervention and probably less need for pain medication as well.”

Though unsure why Angeleno hospitals have generally been slower than other major cities to offer midwifery services, Frank said that CSMC’s change of heart is likely due to increasing public demand for such services. Frank attributes this shift in part to Ricky Lake’s film, “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary that questions whether most births should be viewed as a natural life process or as a potentially catastrophic medical emergency.

One of the differences between midwives and physicians is that while midwives specialize in normal births, phsycians spend much of their time-quite necessarily-studying potential complications.

Given that, Frank, along with other health care advocates, see an increased role for midwives in the revamping of our health care system.

“We’re finally looking at our health care system, and we need to change it,” Frank said. “I think midwives can play a really significant role in that because over and over again they’ve been shown to give excellent care and have excellent outcomes.”

This is not about physicians being better than midwives, or vice versa, Frank said, it’s about utilizing our resources most wisely by letting practitioners do what they do best.

While insurance does cover the services of certified midwives, Frank asserts that patients may have to pay a larger percentage of fees given that she is not a PPO provider.  Those interested in her services can learn more at her website, www.Midwiveswithwomen.com, or by calling her office at (310)659-5810.

Amanda Traxler is an L.A.-born writer with degrees in journalism from the University of Kansas and creative writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has  been rediscovering her roots since she returned to the area three years ago from the wintry Midwest.

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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