By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
SLIDELL – Karen Cullen and Lillian Funke know all about the misconceptions involving midwives.
“We only deliver babies at home is the main one,” Funke said.
But the two nurses, both with Masters Degrees, have embarked on a mission to change that way of thinking with the introduction of the Ochsner Medical Center-North Shore OB-GYN collaborative practice that includes two physicians, plus Cullen and Funke, who are Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM).
Obtaining that level of expertise as a midwife is no easy chore. Federal law describes CNM’s as “primary care providers” who are required to have a Masters Degree in nursing, a much higher level of education than other nurse practitioners.
In simpler terms, Cullen and Funke are bringing “midwifery” to the North Shore through the new Ochsner clinic that will include the two women, along with Dr. Adela Narcisse and Dr. Lin Dang, both OB physicians.
Perhaps the most frequently asked question for the midwives is “why?” What is the reason a midwife would be a better option for a woman considering a baby?
“It’s not a matter of one thing being better or worse,” Funke said. “It’s a complimentary service and a choice for women.”
Both women see a relationship with a midwife being more than just to have a baby. It’s about a lifetime relationship with a reproductive specialist who clearly understands what women go through during their entire life when it comes to their reproductive health care.
“We are actual providers and that’s what we want to offer to women—Karen and I are both Ivy League educated and bring that to the relationship with a woman,” Funke said. “We want to offer that education to them from the time they go through their childbearing cycle, all the way to menopause.”
But there is no doubt that midwives are usually thought about first when most women are considering having a baby.
“We’re there to provide all the support a woman needs during the time of her pregnancy, to having the baby and after,” Cullen said. “And it’s really about helping a woman feel safe during that time, particularly when she is having the baby. We want to stay in her life during the entire period of time.”
Funke said midwives offer additional support for women and help them in any situation on the journey to having a child.
“One reason midwives provide additional support is that we are women who are involved in the most intimate part of their lives, and with a midwife, it helps a woman feel safe during that time,” she added. “And sometimes when things might not go as planned, it’s important to have someone there you can trust to feel good about what decisions you make.”
Both midwives took different paths to their decision to earn the CNM certification.
Cullen grew up in Philadelphia involved with a mother, father and brother all in the health care field.
“It was all around me,” she said. “I originally thought I would be a pediatric oncologist, but when I started working with the sick children, I went home crying most days and knew I couldn’t do that.”
She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing and “discovered women’s health.”
Her father was a pediatric intensive care physician and had begun working exclusively with underprivileged families in Haiti, so it was natural his daughter joined him there.
“Midwives are the natural thing in Haiti and I found that I loved the gynecological aspect of health care, building a great trust with women,” Cullen said.
She went on to continue that profession and delivered “thousands of babies” during 10 years that included time in New Zealand, before making a decision to earn her Masters Degree in nursing and become a certified midwife.
Funke traveled a different path, and even though her father was a family practice physician in Tennessee, she began work in research after finishing college with her degree. Coming to Tulane University and earning a Masters Degree in Public Health, Funke was led towards an interest in nursing as a midwife when her research showed the high infant mortality numbers for Louisiana and Mississippi.
“These two states are generally the highest in the country for infant mortality,” she said. “And that’s where midwifery helps. We are all about helping a woman through the pregnancy before she ever gets pregnant—building a relationship for complete health care. It’s such a rewarding job, although the term ‘8 to 5’ is not in our vocabulary.
“I wanted to give women more options and that’s really what being a midwife allows me to do,” Funke added.
Other misconceptions many people believe about a midwife is the fact you can’t use any kind of pain relief (epidural) during pregnancy, and the midwives can’t write prescriptions.
“We do all those things and work hand-in-hand with our OB physicians at any time they are needed,” Cullen said. “Our goal is to meet you where you are, and help a woman with whatever choices she has.”
The reason for the Ochsner clinic now offering midwives is due to a steady increase in the interest for that health care option.
“We worked in Baton Rouge already to prepare for starting here and midwives are busier than ever there,” Funke said. “Midwives are growing in popularity and I think it’s great Ochsner is bringing the option to the North Shore.”
Ochsner offers board certified OB/GYN physicians and provides each with the highest quality of personalized care whether she is a young woman, maternity patient or going through menopause and beyond. Our physicians expand the gamut of women’s care services to treat women’s bladder problems, pelvic floor muscle and pelvic pain and more.
In Covingotn, Dr. Kuebel, Dr. Mokry, Dr. Swiger and Dr. Thomas are located at 101 E. Judge Tanner Blvd, Ste 301, Covington, LA 70433.
Call 985-875-2828 to make an appointment.