What is a Midwife?

From Citizen’s for Midwifery

A midwife is a trained professional with special expertise in supporting women to maintain a healthy pregnancy birth, offering expert individualized care, education, counseling and support to a woman and her newborn throughout the childbearing cycle.

A midwife works with each woman and her family to identify their unique physical, social and emotional needs. When the care required is outside the midwife’s scope of practice or expertise, the woman is referred to other health care providers for additional consultation or care.

The Midwives Alliance of North America, the North American Registry of Midwives, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council and Citizens for Midwifery agreed on a short definition of what “midwifery care” means. However, just because a person is a midwife does not guarantee that they provide this kind of care; consumers looking for a midwife should ask questions to determine if a prospective caregiver will be able to provide the kind of care they seek.

The Midwives Model of Care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes.

The Midwives Model of Care includes:

  • Monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
  • Providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
  • Minimizing technological interventions
  • Identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention

The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.

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Midwives in the U.S.

There are two main categories of midwives in the U.S., nurse-midwives, who are trained in both nursing and midwifery, and direct entry midwives, who trained as midwives without being nurses first. Within the category of direct entry midwives are several subcategories reflecting the varying legal status of these midwives in different states and the fact that until recently there was no nationally recognized credential available for direct entry midwives. Direct entry midwives include highly trained and very competent midwives; however, anyone may call herself a midwife at this time, and if you are looking for a midwife, it is up to you to find out if the midwife is qualified and experienced to your satisfaction. If a midwife is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), you are at least assured that she has met specific requirements for certification (and re-certification every three years).

For detailed information about direct entry midwives, the CPM credential, and nurse-midwives visit Citizens for Midwifery.