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HIGHLIGHTS |  A growing team of midwives 

  • A newly established team of five midwives works to provide expert care to birthing parents at the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic at UW Medical Center – Montlake. 
  • Patients who choose the support of a midwife are provided with resources to help them make the most comfortable decision for their birthing needs. 
  • Midwives work as guides, educators and advocates on behalf of the birthing parent to provide ease during the pregnancy.  


When birthing parents begin their pregnancy journey, the providers at the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic at UW Medical Center – Montlake find that many people have different ideas about what their birth experience should look like. Some prefer a more holistic experience, while others may be satisfied with a different approach.  

To diversify the types of birthing process a pregnant person can have, the Montlake clinic began building a team of midwives in September 2019. The now fully staffed team of five clinicians — Heather Ranney, CNM; Nailah Dodd, CNM; Erica Wikan, CNM, C-PNP, Kim Johansen, CNM, ARNP; and Sarah Chandler, CNM, ARNP — are eager and attentive midwives who are passionate about helping new parents. 

“We really have a special dynamic,” says Ranney, chief of Midwifery at Montlake. “We’re built into the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, so we’re able to co-manage pregnancies with them. It’s a great option for people who are giving birth in Seattle. We see birthing people as people who need support — and we’re here to support both medically and emotionally.” 

What do the midwives do?

Many birthing parents wonder what the difference is between a doula, midwife and OB (obstetrician) when making their provider choice.  

Ranney describes the primary job of a midwife as a new parent’s pregnancy guide — there to listen to the needs of the birthing parent, help provide relevant resources throughout the process and give attentive medical care. 

“If you combine all of these aspects together, the midwives turn it into a personalized birth plan for each patient,” Ranney says. 

Midwives are a great resource because of their high level of care coupled with the medical background and expertise. Like midwives, doulas provide emotional support and help advocate for the needs of the birthing parent, but are nonmedical, Ranney explains. The midwives also can act as lactation consultants and childbirth educators.

In the end, the type of care that a new parent chooses is a decision based on their comfort level. At the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, the midwives are part of the care team and encourage parents to choose the provider best suited to their needs. They provide an abundance of information to allow the birthing parent to advocate for themselves.

How the partnership works  

When someone comes to the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, the birthing parent has the option for a care team of midwives or obstetricians.

“Sometimes, the birthing person will feel the most comfortable with the OB, rather than a midwife, and we encourage and support them in making those decisions,” says Ranney. “In terms of midwives, we tend to have more time in our schedules with a focus on education and advocacy.”

In the end, the clinicians share one common goal: ensuring the parent will always feel supported in the birth plan they are most comfortable with. 

“I was a labor and delivery nurse at Montlake and a NICU nurse before I was a midwife, so I understand birth culture and resources,” says Ranney. “We offer birthing people a wide range of resources whether it is a low-risk delivery or more complicated delivery. We are supportive and dedicated to caring for all birthing people.”