Home What is a midwife? Midwifery today Quality and cost of care Find a midwife Useful links About the author
The midwifery model of care focuses on monitoring the physical, psychological and social health of a mother before, during and after pregnancy.
Midwife Lynne Salzburg prepares a "home-birth bag," complete with
tools and instruments used for delivering babies at home. The bag
includes clamps for an umbilical cord, a bulb syringe, several pairs of
hemostats and scissors, an oxygen tank, a resuscitation mask and
hooks for breaking water.

What is a midwife?

Midwives educate and counsel the mother and provide continuous, hands-on assistance during labor and delivery. Midwives support minimal technological intervention during the childbearing process and identify and refer women who require a physician’s attention.1

Several types of midwives operate around the world, but the most common in the United States are nurse-midwives, direct-entry midwives and lay midwives.

Nurse-Midwife
(certified nurse-midwife or CNM)

Nurse-midwives are registered nurses who have completed accredited nurse-midwifery education programs, passed a national certification examination and met other criteria for certification by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. They practice legally in every U.S. state, and most have masters or higher degrees. Although they attend births in all settings, most nurse-midwives attend births in hospitals.2 Currently, there are 46 educational programs for CNMs, and more than 7,000 people have completed requirements for credential since it was created 30 years ago.1

Direct-Entry Midwife
(including certified professional midwife and certified midwife)

Direct-entry midwives are formally educated and certified by the North American Registry of Midwives, but have not completed training at a school of nursing. More than 400 individuals have been credentialed since 1994, when the mechanism for certification was created. Sixteen states allow direct-entry midwives to operate, while ten states prohibit them to practice.1

Lay Midwife

Lay midwives are generally educated through informal training that is founded only in experience. They may complete apprenticeships or short courses, but there are no educational requirements or other standards for lay midwives.2



1 Dower CM, Miller JE, O'Neil EH and the Taskforce on Midwifery. Charting a Course for the 21st Century: The Future of Midwifery. San Francisco, CA: Pew Health Professions Commission and the UCSF Center for the Health Professions. April 1999. pp 4, 6, 7.

2 Rooks, Judith Pence. Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. pp 7-8.


Images and words © Copyright 2000 Molly Van Wagner
mollyvan77@hotmail.com
Last revised: 4.20.2000