Student turns interest in women’s rights into goal to become midwife

COURTESY OF ANNA PESTINE Anna Pestine, junior women and gender studies major, wants to become a midwife after she graduates. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA PESTINE

Anna Pestine has no interest in having children. In the future, she doesn’t see herself as a mom. Instead, she wants to help other women as they become moms.

Pestine, a junior women and gender studies major, wants to be a midwife.

“I want that more personal approach,” Pestine said. “I want to make (childbirth) a more positive experience. I think that by becoming a midwife I’ll have more access to that role.”

A midwife, like obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYN), assists expecting mothers during pregnancy and during childbirth. Midwives are not involved with surgical procedures like an OB/GYN, but they often stay with the mother after childbirth to teach breast-feeding methods and overall care of a newborn. Midwives can work in a hospital, but they usually visit the woman in her home. Pestine sees midwifery as a more personal, natural alternative to an OB/GYN.

“It’s more of a relationship the midwife has with the client. It’s not just that the client is a patient,” Pestine said. “It releases a lot of the fear that I think can happen with the really medicalized system where it’s really impersonal.”

Pestine started attending Webster with the intention of majoring in biology. After seeing the play “The Vagina Monologues,” Pestine started taking women’s studies classes and became interested in the social status of women around the world. She created her own major, women and gender studies, after the first semester of her sophomore year.

“I want to help women, and women are affected especially in the healthcare system,” Pestine said. “My classes have shown how badly that can turn out. I just want to help in a way that women are most affected, especially underserved women.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Webster, Pestine will attend nursing school to earn an advanced nursing degree. It will take an additional three to five years for Pestine to become a midwife after graduating from Webster.

Pestine’s goal is to open a midwifery clinic to assist underserved women, especially in inner cities. Many of these women, Pestine said, might not have healthcare, in which case a midwife would be less expensive than a hospital. To care for women and their children before and after birth, Pestine would also like to open a daycare center.

“Anna cares a lot about women’s issues,” Amy Sanders, Pestine’s girlfriend, said. “She will definitely try to empower women and not try to control the situation. She really cares about this issue; not just being a midwife, but helping women who may not be able to afford a midwife or who may not know about the services midwives provide.”

Pestine said while OB/GYNs are more, “willing to heavily medicate their patients,” midwives tend to focus on natural childbirth, opting for meditation over medication. Because they do not administer heavy pain medications or surgery, midwives are best suited for low-risk pregnancies.

“I think a lot of people hear the words ‘home birth’ and they get really scared and thinking it’s really dangerous,” Pestine said. “But this has been going on since the beginning of time. People have been delivering infants without pain medication and without doctors. It’s just a natural part of life that doesn’t need to be this medicalized.

“Some women want to feel more empowered when they give birth and more in control of the process, in which case they require a midwife,” Pestine said.

Sanders said especially now, with a, “war on women’s health,” in Congress, politicians are trying to take control away from women’s reproduction. Having a midwife, Sanders said, could give some of that control back to women.

Pestine is currently studying at Webster’s Thailand campus, where she is researching sex trafficking in the region as an intern with AlphaWom, a nonprofit organization that focuses on gender-based education for women.

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