The University of New Mexico Hospital offers patient-centered reproductive healthcare to women and their partners through the UNM Midwife program. The program provides personalized care during pregnancy and basic reproductive care even when children are not part of life’s plan.
“Midwives play such a vital role in women’s reproductive health,” said UNM psychology major Angela Cox. “They can provide you with basic reproductive care whether or not you plan to have children. They are more than just a nurse and very much needed to help women feel safe and protected during the most vulnerable times.”
Cox is a UNM senior and has given birth with the expertise of midwives who helped her with her entire pregnancy and birthing process. Cox has also given birth without the help of a midwife, but said she prefers having a midwife present, describing the experience as “wonderful”.
The UNM Nursing-Midwifery program is recognized nationally. It is 7th in the nation with a 3.9 out of 5 scores as reported by US News who ranked the top midwifery schools. The ranking is based on a survey of academics at peer institutions.
According to Thanh Tam Ho, a UNM midwife who has been practicing for nine years, said the word midwife has a significant meaning and a literal translation that means “with-the-woman.”
Care from the program is not just available to pregnant women — instead, it also includes a broader community. Ho said midwives provide wraparound services to women, their partners, transgender men and anyone else who requests their help.
“If I think about my clinic day, sometimes half or even two-thirds of my patients that I see that day will be gynecology patients — we do well-woman exams, we do pap smears, we do birth control.” Ho said, “I see patients frequently for histories of depression, anxiety and, honestly... I don’t think I ever have a clinic day where I don’t talk to someone about their history of sexual abuse and just provide them support.”
There are laws that limit how much-certified nurse-midwives can care for male patients, however, Ho said if two partners are STI positive, regardless of the partner’s gender, expedited partner therapy is something that is provided as stated in New Mexico law.
“If I have a patient who tests positive for a sexually transmitted infection, I can put in for an expedited partner refill under my patient’s name... and the pharmacy is required by law to give those extra refills to the patient so that they may provide it to someone else,” Ho said.
Ho said her practice is a safe place to learn about female anatomy in an open and welcoming way. Often women have not had the opportunity to do this in normal modern-day life because of stigma. Ho is also able to perform examinations and reassure women that everything is normal — because many women don't know what normal looks like Ho said.
“As women, we are not taught about our own anatomy, we are taught to feel ashamed at the appearance or taught to believe that we are abnormal. If she wants me to talk about what’s where absolutely we can do that. Normalizing what we feel — even that can be powerful,” Ho said.
In the state of New Mexico, midwives aren’t allowed to help with abortion procedures. According to Ho, there are laws on the books that say only a physician can provide abortions. She told the Daily Lobo that there is no medical or scientific reason for this law, rather than the law is made to limit the access people have to abortions.
Patients who come to her are directed to the Center for Reproductive Health at UNM, which is staffed with providers and physicians who do provide abortions. Timeliness is important according to Ho. She added that the center provides both emotional support and physical support to those seeking medical advice for terminating a pregnancy.
“There is something special about midwives,” Ho said. “I have patients tell me all the time that ‘you are the first person to ever talk to me like this.’”
Lissa Knudsen is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lissaknudsen
Megan Holmen is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen