The Art of: Cutting the Cord Nancy Reinhart '00 is a midwife and health care practitioner who empowers women and families during their pregnancy.
“Watching women bond with their babies moments after the birth is always amazing,” said Nancy Reinhart ’00, a midwife and health care practitioner at WellSpan Gettysburg OBGYN in Pennsylvania. “There’s phrase midwives use about catching babies — ‘into these hands’ — that reflects the care and support we provide women and their families throughout the pregnancy.”
When Reinhart witnessed her first birth during her Shepherd Poverty Program internship with Frontier Nursing University, she’d already committed to her double major in politics and journalism and mass communications. She remembers thinking, “I love this. I love seeing how midwives serve women and theirfamilies, but I feel like it’s too much to go back for all the classes I’d need to pursue this career.” But she held onto that thought.
That experience, plus a Washington Spring Term stint with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in D.C. investigating the disparities of access to women’s health care across the U.S. steered her toward a career in health care policy.
After two years serving in Peace Corps Armenia, where she developed community-based health education curricula, she earned her master’s in public health at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences. She took a job in social justice, doing research about the impacts of fossil fuels on community and maternal/child health and the health benefits of sustainable energy.
During this time, Reinhart and her husband decided to start a family. Their first child died in utero. “I had two health care practitioners in my life at thattime: one was there to help me process the grief and the other just didn’t show up.” That grief and her recovery through it pushed her to pursue her longstanding dream of becoming a certified nurse midwife.
“Going back to school for another eight years was a really difficult decision,” said Reinhart, who has three living children with her husband David Mitchell. “It was hard to take so much time away from my family.” However, she believes she is a better midwife for “having a lot of life experience and a lot of grief under my belt.” Reinhart graduated with her master’s degree in nurse midwifery in 2019 at the age of 41.
She and her colleagues, comprised of midwives and OBGYNs, work in a collaborative care model. “I attend labors and births, but if something is beyond my scope, I call in the physician, and we work together to care for the client,” she said.
Like most nurse midwives, she offers her patients full scope gynecologic and obstetric care, including routine well woman visits and birth control counseling. She appreciates working in a state that continues to protect access to all reproductive choices. “Restricting women’s healthcare sets a dangerous medical and legal precedent for our healthcare system — we should all be wary of where this leads.”
Reinhart views shared decision making and respecting patient choice as pillars of midwifery and of her own approach to the profession. “It’s really all about helping the women we serve have access to all the evidence and care choices they need to make the best healthcare decision they can.”
Over the last several decades, this approach has led to greater numbers of women partnering with midwives for OBGYN care, a trend Reinhart believes is beneficial on several levels. “When women have access to midwifery care, outcomes for them and their babies are better and system costs are lower. Moreover, our care empowers women and families during their pregnancy, birth and beyond.”