What is a Midwife?

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If you are having a normal pregnancy and you want a more natural birth, water birth, or want to give birth at a birth center or at home, you may be considering a midwife.  A midwife can give you care through your pregnancy, birth, and after your baby is born in all birth settings.  Your midwife will ask about your individual needs, explain all of your options, and respect your wishes.  Birth centers are staffed by midwives who provide extra support, education and time spent with you at your checkups.

When choosing a midwife, you’ll want to review their educational training and experience.  Choose a midwife who you feel completely comfortable with.  The three most common types of midwives and their certifications are listed below.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are midwives and registered nurses.  They are licensed healthcare practitioners with a master’s degree who are trained as a nurse and as a midwife.  They are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.  Nurse midwives may legally practice in all 50 states.  All CNMs have physicians they consult with when needed.  Many states require formal agreements with doctors. Nurse Midwives can prescribe medication and can practice in homes, birth centers, clinics, and hospitals.  CNMs also provide well-woman care and primary care which includes annual exams, birth control, and pre-pregnancy counseling.

Certified Midwives (CM) are also certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.  The clinical skills and the certification exam are the same as for a CNM.  The difference is that CMs are not required to hold a registered nurse license.  CMs are only recognized in a few states.

Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives.  To complete this program, students need to receive training, education, and clinical experience.  They are trained as midwives, but not required to become nurses.  CPMs can legally practice in 28 states and 13 states have pending legislation. 

Skills of a midwife

  • Provides prenatal, labor and birth, and postnatal care in the wellness model
  • Helps support a safe, normal, and low-risk pregnancy and birth
  • Deals with emergencies
  • Spots problems and consults with doctors when needed
  • Offers support for parents who have had a miscarriage and loss of baby
  • Assists with family planning decisions
  • Provides emotional support, compassion, and sensitivity combined with education

 CNM/CMs can also

  • Provide well-woman gynecological care throughout a woman’s life from puberty through menopause
  • Counsel in health management and disease prevention, provide primary care to women

midwife with client