Why we need midwives in research

This article came across my inbox this morning: Yerks Research Center receives five-year, $9.5 million grant to study oxytocin.

As you probably remember, I graduated from the public health and nurse midwifery programs at Emory in December, and am returning to Emory to begin work on a PhD in nursing in just two weeks.  I was as excited to see this research project as I was when I learned Lynn Sybley had received an $8.1 million dollar grant to improve maternal and newborn survival rates in rural Ethiopia. She’s a pretty impressive  midwife, wouldn’t you say?

As much as I am excited about the new Yerks oxytocin studies, my heart sinks just a bit because there is no midwife included in their research staff.  I suppose it is possible a midwife from another part of the university is on this project, but I’m not counting on it.

Why do I care if a midwife is on the project?  Because currently the only uses of synthetic oxytocin are reproductive. This means, if there is disruption in oxytocin production or reception associated with these problems, one must question the effect of the use of synthetic oxytocin during labor on these disruptions.

While any PhD can read about the uses, and any doctor will know, and any obstetrician will be familiar with its effects, a midwife brings a unique, holistic understanding of the uses of synthetic oxytocin. This is part of the reason multidisciplinary teams are so important – because each specialty brings a unique perspective to help ask the right questions and interpret the answers.

I understand the order of research, and that before links can be made between synthetic oxytocin use and problems with oxytocin metabolism, you need to find out if problems with oxytocin metabolism really do exist.  But I still wish a midwife were on this team to be part of the question generating before the research begins.


Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)