Midwifery is the profession of midwives, only midwives practise midwifery. It has a unique body of knowledge, skills and professional attitudes drawn from disciplines shared by other health professions such as science and sociology, but practised by midwives within a professional framework of autonomy, partnership, ethics and accountability. Midwifery is an approach to care of women and their newborn infants whereby midwives:
• optimise the normal biological, psychological, social and cultural processes of childbirth and early life of the newborn;
• Work in partnership with women, respecting the individual circumstances and views of each woman
• promote women’s personal capabilities to care for themselves and their families
• collaborate with midwives and other health professionals as necessary to provide holistic care that meets each woman’s individual needs
A midwife is a trained health professional who helps healthy women during labor, delivery, and after the birth of their babies. Midwives may deliver babies at birthing centers or at home, but most can also deliver babies at a hospital.
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses who have graduated from an accredited nurse-midwifery education program and have passed a national exam. They can practice in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Certified midwives (CMs) are non-nurse midwives who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health field, have completed an accredited midwifery education program, and have passed a national exam. Only a few states permit CMs to practice.
Certified professional midwives (CPMs) are non-nurse midwives who have training and clinical experience in childbirth, including childbirth outside of the hospital, and have passed a national exam. Not all states permit CPMs to practice.
What Does Your Midwife Do?
- Provide family planning and preconception care
- Do prenatal exams and order tests
- Watch your physical and psychological health
- Help you make your birth plans
- Advise you about diet, exercise, meds, and staying healthy
- Educate and counsel you about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care
- Give you emotional and practical support during labor
- Admit and discharge you from the hospital
- Deliver your babies
- Make referrals to doctors when needed
Midwifery care is provided by an autonomous midwife. Midwifery competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) are held and practised by midwives, educated through a pre-service/preregistration midwifery education programme that meets the ICM global standards for midwifery education.
In some countries where the title ‘midwife’ is not yet protected, other health professionals (nurses and doctors) may be involved in providing sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health care to women and newborns. As these health professionals are not midwives they do not possess the competencies of a midwife and do not provide midwifery skills, but rather aspects of maternal and newborn care.