Knowledge: Midwives

What does a midwife do?

Because midwives seek to cultivate a relationship with both you and your child, they can offer personalized care, an emotional support system, and a wealth of information that is not as easy to access in a traditional childbirth setting. However, just because experiencing childbirth with a midwife can lead to a beautiful and cozy home birth, it does not mean there is a limit to hospital or doctor office care. Midwives may work in tandem with other medical professionals or in hospitals. In fact, there are entire wings of hospitals led by midwives!

Midwives offer personalized care in your setting of choice (home or otherwise) and some can provide many of the same medical services a doctor or nurse practitioner might. Midwives offer a unique combination of medical services and empathetic, nurturing support. From fostering a supportive, healthy environment to planning for motherhood, midwives can create a well-rounded maternity experience. As long as you are at low risk for childbirth complications, a midwife can walk with you through your journey of maternity.

A midwife is there to support all aspects of your pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period. They also contribute to your overall well-being and safety. In a recent study completed by Oregon State University, it was found that states who support midwifery also tend to have lower rates of “premature births, cesarean deliveries and newborn deaths.”

Many people have the misconception that midwives take a relatively inactive role in childbirth, especially when compared to a doctor; however, quite the opposite is true. Midwives often have medical training and certifications. With a resurgence of home births, midwives are in high demand and with all the choices available, it’s important to understand what each type of midwife can offer. There are generally four different classifications of midwives (for a handy chart, click here).

Types of Midwives

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) – Highest education with nursing background

The CNM is licensed in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and US territories. They are often nurse practitioners or registered nurses and have been certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) with accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). These midwives have the highest level of education with a combination of medical experience to compliment it and are required to be recertified every five years. This recertification allows them to provide continuous health services like prescribing medication, performing exams, or birthing a child.

Certified Midwife (CM) – Highest education without nursing background

Certified Midwives are unique in that he or she (yes, there are men who are midwives, too!) is only certified to work in certain states. Some private insurance companies cover CM care, and in certain states they can work in hospitals or other professional medical locations. The biggest difference between CNMs and CMs is that they are not required to have a nursing background (i.e. a Bachelor of Science in Nursing).

Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) – Certificates + Experience

CPMs are experienced midwives who are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) but do not necessarily have a medical background; in fact, only a high school diploma or GED is required to pursue becoming a CPM. This means that they are able to work in homes or private birthing centers but cannot prescribe medication or work in a hospital or OB/GYN setting. These midwives are required to recertify every three years versus the five years for CNMs and CMs. Despite not having graduate-level education, CPMs are experienced and certainly still have professional training. 

Lay Midwives – Clarity and Support

Lay Midwives work independently and are not certified or licensed to administer medical treatments; however, they can still be a valuable resource. Lay Midwives specialize in information and emotional support. If you have questions about the maternity process or want additional support for your family to ensure everyone stays mentally healthy, Lay Midwives are a great alternative because they focus on providing you or your family with knowledge. This may include knowledge about the birthing process or other maternity processes like abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, or infertility. Lay Midwives focus on the human side of maternity and are typically present during home births or in birthing centers. While they cannot provide medical care like prescriptions or physical therapy, they can offer excellent care for a mother and her family.

Personalized Care

Now that you have a general understanding of the various types of midwives available to you, you can make an informed decision. Finding the perfect midwife is entirely dependent on individual need and preference. As each birth is unique, the assisting midwife should be a good fit for the birthing individual. A midwife will not only ensure that your medical needs are taken care of but will also work to create an environment that is supportive and comfortable for you.

If you would like more information on how a midwife can assist your birth, click here to discover more.

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