What is a Midwife?

A midwife provides care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Midwives are trained to provide support and guidance to women throughout the childbirth process. They work closely with women to ensure that they have a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery, and a positive postpartum experience. Midwives provide a range of services, including prenatal care, education and counseling, labor and delivery support, and postpartum care.

Midwives may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, birthing centers, and home settings. They may work independently or as part of a team, collaborating with obstetricians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Midwives may specialize in different areas, such as home birth, water birth, or high-risk pregnancies. Regardless of their specialty, midwives are committed to providing high-quality, personalized care that supports the health and wellbeing of women and their babies.

What does a Midwife do?

A midwife sitting next to her pregnant client.

Midwives play a vital role in ensuring safe and healthy childbirth for women and their newborns. They work with women to provide individualized care that promotes their physical and emotional well-being, empowering them to make informed decisions about their pregnancy and childbirth. They also provide education and support to help women and families prepare for childbirth and adjust to the postpartum period. The care provided by midwives has been shown to result in lower rates of medical interventions, complications, and cesarean sections, as well as improved outcomes for mothers and newborns.

Duties and Responsibilities
Some of the specific duties and responsibilities of a midwife may include:

  • Prenatal Care: Midwives are responsible for providing prenatal care to women during pregnancy. They monitor the health of both the mother and the baby, provide education on healthy lifestyle choices and answer questions about pregnancy.
  • Labor and Delivery: Midwives are trained to assist women during labor and delivery. They provide emotional support and comfort measures, monitor the progress of labor, and make decisions regarding pain management and interventions.
  • Postpartum Care: After delivery, midwives continue to monitor the mother and baby's health, provide breastfeeding support, and assess the mother's recovery. They also provide education on newborn care and postpartum health.
  • Family Planning: Midwives provide education and counseling on family planning methods and assist women in choosing the best method for their needs.
  • Health Education: Midwives educate women and their families on health issues related to pregnancy and childbirth, including nutrition, exercise, and childbirth preparation.
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals: Midwives work closely with obstetricians, pediatricians, and other healthcare professionals to ensure that women and babies receive the best possible care.
  • Advocacy: Midwives advocate for women's health and rights, promoting policies and practices that support safe and respectful childbirth.

Types of Midwives
There are several types of midwives, including:

  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): A CNM is a registered nurse who has received additional training in midwifery and has earned a Master's Degree in Nursing. They are licensed to provide prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.
  • Certified Midwife (CM): A CM is similar to a CNM in terms of education and training, but they do not have a nursing background. They are licensed to provide prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.
  • Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): A CPM is a midwife who has completed a specific education program and is certified by the North American Registry of Midwives. They primarily provide home birth services and focus on natural childbirth.
  • Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM): A DEM is a midwife who has entered the profession without a nursing degree or certification. They may receive training through apprenticeships or midwifery programs and are typically licensed to provide home birth services.

Are you suited to be a midwife?

Midwives have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Midwife like?

The workplace of a midwife can vary depending on the setting in which they practice. Midwives can work in hospitals, birth centers, or in the community attending home births. Regardless of the setting, midwives are responsible for providing care and support to women throughout their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period.

In hospital settings, midwives may work alongside obstetricians and other healthcare professionals as part of a team. They may also work in birthing centers, which are specifically designed to provide a homelike atmosphere for labor and delivery. In these settings, midwives may be responsible for performing physical exams, monitoring fetal heart rate, assisting with labor and delivery, and providing postpartum care.

Midwives who attend home births typically work independently and are responsible for providing all aspects of care to women and their babies. They may travel to the woman’s home to provide prenatal care, attend the birth, and provide postpartum care. This setting allows for a more personalized and intimate experience for the woman and her family.

Regardless of the setting, midwives typically work long and irregular hours, as they are on call 24/7 for births and emergencies. They must also be able to work well under pressure and make quick decisions in emergency situations. Additionally, they must have excellent communication skills to effectively communicate with their patients, healthcare team members, and families.

Frequently Asked Questions

Certified Nurse Midwife vs Midwife

In the United States, both certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and midwives are options for individuals interested in pursuing a career in midwifery. However, there are some key differences between the two paths.

CNMs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have completed a nursing program and then gone on to complete additional graduate-level education in midwifery. They must pass a national certification exam to become licensed and practice in all states. CNMs have a wider scope of practice than midwives, as they can provide primary care services in addition to midwifery care. CNMs can also work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, birth centers, and home settings.

Midwives, on the other hand, can come from a variety of educational backgrounds and may have different levels of certification or licensure depending on the state in which they practice. Some midwives complete formal midwifery education programs and become certified through organizations such as the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Others may become licensed through their state's department of health or board of nursing. Midwives may work in hospitals, birth centers, or home settings, and their scope of practice may be limited compared to that of a CNM.

When it comes to career choice, individuals interested in midwifery may choose to become a CNM if they are interested in the broader scope of practice and the ability to provide primary care services. CNMs also typically earn higher salaries than midwives. However, individuals who are passionate about midwifery specifically and want to focus on pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care may choose to become a midwife.

Ultimately, the choice between becoming a CNM or a midwife will depend on an individual's personal goals, interests, and educational background, as well as the laws and regulations in their state of practice.

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Obstetric Nurse vs Midwife

Obstetric nurses and certified professional midwives (CPMs) are healthcare professionals who provide care and support to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. However, there are some key differences between these two professions.

Education and Certification:
Obstetric nurses typically complete a nursing degree (either an associate or a bachelor's degree) and then pursue additional training in obstetrics. In contrast, CPMs undergo a specific midwifery education program that focuses on natural childbirth and are certified by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM).

Scope of Practice:
Obstetric nurses work under the supervision of physicians, while midwives can work independently, collaborating with physicians when needed. CPMs are licensed to provide care to women throughout the pregnancy and childbirth process, including performing physical exams, providing prenatal care, attending labor and delivery, and providing postpartum care.

Focus on Natural Childbirth:
While obstetric nurses are trained to assist with both natural childbirth and medical interventions, CPMs specialize in natural childbirth and emphasize the use of non-pharmacological pain management techniques.

Setting of Care:
Obstetric nurses typically work in hospitals or medical clinics, while midwives may work in hospitals, birthing centers, or in-home settings.

Medical Interventions:
Obstetric nurses are trained to recognize and manage medical complications during childbirth, while midwives are trained to recognize and refer women to physicians if medical interventions are needed.

In summary, obstetric nurses and midwives (CPMs) provide similar care to pregnant women, but their education, scope of practice, focus on natural childbirth, and setting of care may differ. Ultimately, the decision of whether to work with an obstetric nurse or a midwife depends on a person's personal preferences and medical needs.

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See Also
Obstetric Nurse

Pros and Cons of Being a Midwife

As with any profession, there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a midwife.


  • Rewarding Career: One of the most significant advantages of being a midwife is the sense of fulfillment that comes with helping bring new life into the world. Midwives are responsible for ensuring the safe delivery of babies and providing support to mothers during the pregnancy and postpartum period.
  • Autonomy: Midwives have a high degree of autonomy in their practice, which means they have the ability to make decisions about patient care and treatment plans. This can be empowering and fulfilling for midwives who enjoy taking on responsibility and making important decisions.
  • Flexibility: Midwifery is a versatile profession that offers many opportunities for career advancement and specialization. Midwives can work in various settings, including hospitals, birthing centers, and even in-home birth settings.


  • Emotional Toll: Midwifery can be an emotionally demanding profession. Midwives are often present during some of the most intense and challenging moments of a woman's life, which can be emotionally draining.
  • Work Schedule: Midwifery can involve long and unpredictable work hours, including being on call for extended periods. This can be particularly challenging for midwives with families or other obligations outside of work.
  • Legal Liability: Midwives are responsible for the health and safety of their patients, and as such, they can be held legally liable if something goes wrong during the birth or postpartum period.

Midwives are also known as:
Certified Professional Midwife CPM