Deborah Ferguson spends time with women in labor, helping them along and providing a comforting presence during the long process.
“I think many times our presence just helps a woman to stay calm,” said Ferguson, a ThedaCare certified nurse midwife at Riverside Medical Center (RMC). “If a woman stays calm, it can help a situation. Labor will progress much more smoothly.”
As a nurse midwife, Ferguson works with expecting patients to prepare them for the birth process, including teaching about the “Powerful P’s” of pregnancy: Passenger (baby), Pelvis, Power’s (uterus) and Psyche. She emphasizes that the most powerful P is Psyche. “If women believe they were designed to give birth, work with their body and not against it, the labor process can proceed much more smoothly,” she said.
Ferguson, a graduate of Marquette University’s Nurse Midwifery Program and certified through the American College of Nurse Midwives, has been with ThedaCare since 1998 and, prior to that, as a registered nurse with RMC. At RMC, she was a labor and delivery nurse, ICEA Certified Childbirth Educator and, for several years, manager of the Maternal Child Health Unit. “Midwives are women with women,” she said. “We primarily specialize in helping women achieve normal births. We firmly believe that pregnancy is a normal process for most women. We try to focus on the fact that we want to help their bodies do what they were designed to do.”
Ferguson said interest in midwifery is growing in the United States. “I think women are looking for more choices,” she said. “I think women are looking for those choices and looking for providers who do allow them to have a say in that process.”
Ferguson has a full scope midwifery practice with ThedCare Physicians. She provides care for women across the life span as well as their families, which includes healthy preventative measures in life as well as managing medical conditions. She works in collaboration with patient’s primary care family physician in Waupaca. “I like the philosophy of care at RMC,” she said. “They give women a wide range of birth choices. They welcome birth plans. They want women to plan what their birth is going to be.”
Parents are encouraged to be a part of the decision making process. “We also educate parents on the events that can happen during pregnancy and labor that could change their plans and then continue to support them when a change in care providers, due to high risk care, is needed or an alternate birth, such as induced labor or cesarean birth, becomes necessary,” she said.
Ferguson has also helped expand the options her patients are offered at RMC. Recently, she worked with the hospital’s Maternal Child Health Care committee to implement water births, which is a first in the ThedaCare system. To date, there have been two water births since the policy’s implementation in June. There are six other individuals who have requested a trial of this option. “During pregnancy we discuss water birth as another tool in helping women cope with labor,” she said. “It is a tool that, though not utilized by all women, can provide significant pain relief. Women who have used this tool emphasize water birth helps them relax so much in the soothing warmth of water that supports their body and aching muscles effectively.”
Ferguson enjoys her patients and learning from them. “I think it’s helping women understand that if they can give birth to a child there isn’t anything else they can’t do in life,” she said. “It’s just a joy to be able to serve parents.”