A midwife is one who cares for a woman and baby during birth. Oftentimes, the midwife’s care also encompasses the pregnancy and the postpartum period as well. This is the most basic definition of a midwife available; the majority of her name is highly defined by where in the world you live.
For example, in the United Kingdom, midwives are medical professionals that provide prenatal care and usually operate in their own hospitals or birth centers. In the Netherlands, these women take charge of the majority of Dutch pregnancies, covering the entire pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period–only handing over their clients if there is an emergency or high-risk condition that develops during the pregnancy. In many third-world countries, a midwife is a birth assistant, sometimes highly trained, sometimes hardly trained, but a birth assistant nonetheless.
In the United States, there are a myriad of different kinds of midwives. Even most women in the United States only know of one kind. For your ease of reading, I have categorized the different midwives into three main groups.
The Nurse Midwife
A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a midwife who has a degree in nursing in addition to her studies as a midwife. This midwife almost always works in a hospital under a doctor’s care. She is often seen as the cross between an obstetrical doctor and a birth-at-home midwife.
The Registered Midwife (RM)
A registered midwife is a healthcare provider who has been trained in women’s health and birth and has passed the state’s examinations to become registered in the state to practice. She usually offers assistance and services to couples looking for an at-home birth. She believes that birth is a natural process that every woman has the right to experience. While she endeavors to keep birth as natural as possible, she is very keen to notice any variations from a normal birth. A registered midwife should not hesitate to take a birthing mother to the hospital if the birth process deviates from safe and healthy boundaries.
The Lay Midwife
A lay midwife is usually a self-appointed midwife who has not received any formal education and has acquired her knowledge through experience. She has not passed any examinations and does not hold credentials in midwifery.
These are the three basic types of midwives that are available in the United States. To find out which kind is best for you, please research your birth options. While a midwife is there to help the mother and keep an eye out for warning signs, the responsibility of the birth is essentially up to the parents. It would be wise to read books and find out more information about what you want to get out of your birth experience. This will dramatically affect who you wish to hire for your prenatal care and birth assistance.
As a student midwife myself, I’ve seen more than my fair share of awesome natural births in the past few months. Save yourself time, money, and worries by visiting my natural pregnancy and childbirth blog for helpful tips, useful advice, and educational information. Also discover the top five tips to a natural birth!