Midwives have assisted women during childbirth for hundreds of years, but the official profession of nurse-midwife began in the US in the mid-1920s.
From its beginnings in rural areas, there are now programs to certify midwives in many colleges and institutions of higher learning. A national certification exam assures soon-to-be parents that they and their child will receive highest standard of care.
What Is a Midwife?
A midwife is a trained health care professional who focuses on women’s health – in particular on pregnancy, birth, and reproductive care. Her job is to care for a woman throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
Among other responsibilities, a midwife can:
- Perform exams and order tests before a woman becomes pregnant
- Act as an advisor about getting pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy
- Provide support and information about delivery and postpartum issues
- Act as a birth coach and actively deliver the child
- Help coordinate medical care if the new mother or child requires it
Individual states have different laws that regulate the classification and certifications of midwives. In general, there are three different categories:
- Certified Nurse Midwives. Also called CNMs, these midwives are graduates of a nurse-midwifery program. In order to be certified, CNMs must pass a national, standardized exam. Being licensed allows CNMs to work anywhere in the United States.
- Certified Midwives. Also known as CMs, these midwives must graduate with a bachelor’s (or higher) degree specializing in health care or a related field. In addition, CMs must complete a midwifery program and successfully pass a national, standardized exam. Unlike CNMs, CMs are not nurses. Also, CMs are more limited in where they can practice, with only a few states granting permission to practice.
- Certified Professional Midwives. Also known as CPMs, these are midwives who have passed a national, standardized exam, and who also have both training and clinical experience in childbirth, both in and out of a hospital setting. Again, states differ as to where and if CPMs are allowed to practice.
When is a Midwife a Good Choice?
Some women are more comfortable planning and going through delivery with a midwife.
Midwives can perform deliveries at a woman’s home, at specialized birth centers, or at a hospital.
Women who have experienced complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or who have experienced difficulties in previous pregnancies may prefer to deliver their child with an obstetrician and medical staff – although a midwife can work with an obstetrician to support the mother-to-be during pregnancy, childbirth, and afterward.
If you are in search of a high-quality OB/GYN center, consider University OB/GYN Associates. We are affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. Our gynecologists and obstetricians are more than expert clinicians; they are dedicated, caring professionals with the highest regard for each patient. To make an appointment, call (315) 464-5162. You can also request an appointment online.