What You Need to Know About Midwives
Midwives have been a staple in the medical community since at least the 17th century, and the profession is still growing. According to the latest report collated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in 2019, around 9.8 percent of all deliveries in the United States were done with the help of midwives. Worldwide, however, midwives have played an integral part in more than two-thirds of assisted deliveries.
A brief history of midwives
In the olden days, midwives were typically mothers who had experience with childbirth. They often learned through their own experiences and by watching other midwives operate. These women adapted the best birthing techniques and used herbal remedies to assist other women with birth.
When the 17th century rolled around, midwives were expected to be licensed under the Church of England. By the 19th century, other countries started adopting measures to ensure midwives were properly licensed to practice the profession.
Even with the rise of medication and male doctors, midwives were a practical necessity in the birthing room because it was considered offensive for a male doctor to operate on a female patient without the presence of a midwife.
Who classifies as a midwife?
Today, a midwife is a healthcare professional with advanced training and skills in gynecology practice. Midwives are employed to help women through all stages of pregnancy and postpartum.
There are four types of midwives:
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) can practice in all states—they have passed a national exam from the American College of Nurse-Midwives, have graduated from a respected nurse-midwifery education program and can practice as both a nurse and a midwife.
Certified midwives (CMs) have also graduated from college and passed a national exam set by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. However, unlike CNMs, they can only practice their profession in a few states and are recognized as non-nurse midwives.
Certified professional midwives are not allowed to practice outside of certain states. They have, however, passed a national exam much like CNMs and CMs, and have expertise and skills when it comes to childbirth.
Lay midwives have completed their apprenticeship and informal training, and have even assisted with childbirth. However, they aren't licensed to practice the skill in a formal setting. Their expertise is mostly called upon during home deliveries.
The benefits of having a midwife assist with childbirth
The role of a midwife is to be your right hand during the course of your pregnancy. They are available to help you from the time you think about giving birth until the time you deliver (and often beyond).
Statistically, if you enlist the help of a midwife, you're more likely to deliver naturally. This is mostly because hospitals prefer birthing interventions (like C-section) over natural deliveries. Whether you choose a hospital birth or an alternative, midwives can support you. In most cases, a midwife will also prepare you for the hospital delivery and guide you through the best way of giving birth without causing too much stress on your body.
If you're interested in employing a midwife to support you through pregnancy, look online for national registries. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, and talk to your primary doctor about putting you in touch with a local midwifery service.