CINCINNATI -- Five-year-old Nora Shuckman and her 3-year-old sister, Lilly, are getting ready to welcome a brand-new sibling. Certified nurse midwife Jessica Evans will welcome the baby, too, as she assists Ashley Shuckman through her third birth.
"The benefit is we still deliver at the hospital, so I know if something were to happen or need further medical care, I know I'm in a safe place," Shuckman said.
It won't be the first time. Evans was also present start-to-finish when Shuckman delivered Nora and Lilly.
"Sometimes it's not even the physical part of the labor they need support with, it's the emotional part," Evans said. "So we try to be there every step of the way."
Shuckman is among a growing number of American women who, seeking a less medicalized experience as they bring children into the world, use a midwife or doula to assist them in childbirth. In 1990, midwives were part of about 4 percent of all US births; by 2014, they attended more than 8 percent.
The increase in demand means local agencies such as Tri-Health, which employs a team of 18 midwives and claims to be the largest midwifery practice in the Tri-State, must bolster their staffing to meet it.
Evans, one of Tri-Health's midwives, emphasized that partnering with a healthcare organization means she is able to provide the natural, suportive experience many parents seek but also quickly connect them with doctors if complications arive.
"When it starts falling outside of normal or when a patient becomes high risk, then we're obviously consulting with physicians on the next steps," Evans said.
Shuckman's first two births went very well, she said. For her, it's all about having someone to listen and guide her through life's greatest miracle.
Evans said that midwives do more than just tend to labor and delivery -- they also oversee annual exams, contraception, and STD prevention and screening.