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Women’s Reproductive Health for a New Millennium

by Marlaina Donato

Kelly McDermott and a new arrival

It is said that every baby is a blessing, and after ushering more than 500 blessings safely into the world, the professionals at Sage-Femme Midwifery, in Albany, can attest that alternative birthing puts choices and power back into a woman’s hands. In the modern era, midwifery can mistakenly seem like an archaic concept, but Sage-Femme is dedicated to demystifying the practice with unsurpassed excellence and services that allow women to choose their own birth experience, whether it be home birth, water birth or hospital birth.

“The biggest difference between conventional birthing methods and midwifery is that the mother is able to make her own decisions, on her own timeline. Basically, the mom is taking responsibility for the entire process,” explains Kelly McDermott, Sage-Femme owner and director. “It is a misconception that to have a midwife you must have a home birth or that you have to have an obstetrician in addition.”

All midwives are not alike, and McDermott, a certified professional midwife and licensed midwife, holds a master’s degree both in nursing and midwifery, and dedication is her hallmark. Opened in 2010, Sage-Femme began with a passionate mission to assist women not only during birth, but for the entire childbearing year. “Unique to our practice, a woman receives care for up to 12 months, and I am available by phone 24/7. Sage-Femme provides three postpartum home visits to check mom and baby, as well as a six-week follow-up visit at the office to check a baby’s weight and help with important topics such as breastfeeding. Each visit is an hour of focused care,” explains McDermott, who takes the time to address emotional issues, as well as the physical. Every woman gets a three-ring binder with more than 100 pages of evidence-based education related to pregnancy filled with ideas and options that cover everything from nutrition to environmental toxins, prenatal yoga and the safest brands of sunblock.

Midwifery, legal since 2010 in New York, is covered by insurance, and McDermott is in the CDPHP network and takes all other insurance plans. In addition to catching 95 percent of the practice’s babies at home, McDermott has hospital privileges at Burdett Care Center and Bellevue Women’s Hospital. “In our practice, we have two midwives and a third one being licensed in the immediate future. Our birth assistants are also nurses. A midwife always has a birth assistant present at a home birth,” explains McDermott.

Sage-Femme, French for wise woman, follows a compassionate paradigm that honors and trusts the natural process of birth, which includes the innate wisdom within each woman and her baby with the least interference. As testimony to the Midwives Model of Care, Sage-Femme monitors physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle, as well as referring women that require obstetrical attention. This model has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma and Cesarean section. “Sage-Femme has an 87 percent success rate in vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), and this is extraordinary when you compare it to only 20 to 30 percent in New York state hospital births,” notes McDermott.

For mothers-to-be, preconception counseling is also available. A vital component of this is screening for potential obstacles to a healthy pregnancy, as well as ways to be proactive in reducing risk factors that could affect future pregnancies.

Sage-Femme also offers women’s primary care that includes diagnostic services, holistic and pharmaceutical treatment options. Women’s reproductive health services include cancer screening, pap tests, breast exams, fertility awareness, treatment of infections and options for cramping, menstrual irregularities and PMS/PMDD. Birth control prescriptions are also part of Sage-Femme’s gynecological health spectrum.

For McDermott, true healing with quality health care requires a time investment and listening deeply. “This is not a model fostered by traditional medical care, but it is the model of the wise woman.”

Sage-Femme is located at 527 Western Ave., in Albany, with satellite offices at 550 Maple Ave., Ste. 202, in Saratoga Springs and in Schoharie County. For more information, call 518-813-9290 or visit Sage-FemmeMidwifery.com.

Marlaina Donato is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.