The Different Types of Midwives
Discovering the different types of midwives is a good way to start picking the right one for you. Some only attend hospital births. Others only attend birth center or home births. A few can attend a birth wherever you want. Your choice of birth attendant is influenced by where you want to have your baby.
Certified Nurse-Midwives: These women are trained as nurses and have done additional, intensive, study in midwifery. Many are graduate students. They often offer complete prenatal care as well as attending births. Most CNMs deliver in hospitals and many are affiliated with an obstetrician's office. Around 3% of CNM attended births occur in birth centers or at client homes. The American College of Nurse-Midwives is the CNM membership organization. CNM's are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board. CNM's often provide well-woman care.
A Certified Midwife (CM) is a similar credential: the midwife goes through a graduate-level nurse-midwifery program just as a CNM does. The difference is that her initial degree was in a discipline other than nursing (such as Women's Studies, Social Work, etc.). They're certified by a similar process to CNM's.
Certified Professional Midwives
Certified Professional Midwife: A midwife who has passed rigorous competency testing by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) is awarded a CPM certificate. A CPM is an independent practitioner. CPMs usually provide complete prenatal care and attend births. CPMs work primarily in home birth and freestanding birth center birth situations. The requirements to become a CPM are different depending on how the midwife began her career.
Learn more at NARM's Homepage
Additional Midwife Classifications
Direct Entry Midwives (DEM): An independent practitioner who has learned midwifery through study, apprenticeship, a midwifery school, and/or a college program that is not a nursing program. These birth attendants usually provide complete prenatal care and attend births at home or in free standing birth centers.
Licensed Midwives: Midwives licensed to practice midwifery in a particular area. Several states in the United States provide licenses. They provide complete prenatal care and primarily attend births in homes or free standing birth centers. A licensed midwife is also another type of midwife: a CNM, CM, CPM, or DEM, depending on her path to midwifery.
The Midwives Alliance of North America, or MANA, is a great resource to locate a midwife. Find out if your state licenses midwives – click the link to NARM's website above and choose “state info” to find out if it does.
What Midwives Provide
Your midwife may not be able to do all of your prenatal testing in her office. Often bloodwork and ultrasound (should you choose to have one) needs to be done with the backup obstetrician or your family doctor. Ask your midwife about which tests she does and which you see am OB or your family doctor for.
Usually midwives do urine dips and all weight checks in their offices – a birth center midwife or CNM may be able to do all testing for you.
Midwives provide all other prenatal care: physical checkups, giving advice, emotional support, nutritional counseling, client education, parenting choice information, etc.
Did you know research is showing midwives are not just for low-risk women? Recent studies are proving women with high-risk pregnancies who have concurrent care with a midwife (having appointments with both an OB and midwife) have lower rates of c-section and higher rates of normal birth.
A midwife gives you excellent physical care as well as emotional care, which is vital during pregnancy. If your pregnancy is considered high risk you can still ask to see your OB's nurse-midwife along with your OB. Or see a midwife outside your OB's practice for concurrent care – you'll be glad you made the choice.
- Questions to ask when you interview a midwife.
- What to expect from your midwife appointments
- Preparing for a natural birth