What is a midwife?
The word midwife comes from two old English/German words, mitt (with) and wif (woman). Thus, the word midwife means with woman. The modern midwife is a health care professional who cares for women. Most midwives provide care for women during pregnancy, labor and delivery. But the modern midwife's scope of practice often goes beyond pregnancy-related care. In the United States there are several pathways to midwifery education and training. Most pathways result in midwifery certification and qualify the candidates for licensing in her/his state or municipality. The most common types of midwives include Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) and Certified Midwives (CM).
What is a Certified Nurse-Midwife?
Certified Nurse-Midwives(CNM) and Certified Midwives(CM) are professional midwives who meet standards established by the American College of Nurse-Midwives(ACNM), and pass rigorous educational programs and testing set by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). In the state of Missouri, a midwife certified through the AMCB is educated and trained at the Masters Degree level to provide health care services to women of all ages. CNMs are also trained to provide care to newborns. In Missouri, CNMs are recognized as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.
What can a Certified Nurse-Midwife do?
Certified Nurse-Midwives care for pregnant women both in the prenatal period as well as during labor and birth. In the United States 8% of all births are attended by CNMS. Most CNM-attended births occur in hospitals, although some CNMs attend births in the home and in out-of-hospital birthing centers. In addition to maternity care, CNMs also provide family planning and gynecological services to women of all ages, including physical exams and Pap smears. CNMs write prescriptions for medicines and birth control, and many are qualified to take care of some primary care problems.
What are the benefits of Midwifery Care?
Decades of studies indicate that primary care services provided by nurse-midwives compare favorably to those provided by physicians. Low risk women who choose midwifery care have:
- Lower rates of cesarean birth,
- Lower rates of labor induction and augmentation,
- Significant reduction in the incidence of third and fourth degree perineal tears,
- Lower use of regional anesthesia, and
- Higher rates of breastfeeding.
Women in the midwife-led models had:
- A significantly higher chance for a normal vaginal birth, fewer interventions, and successful initiation of breastfeeding,
- Care during labor provided by a midwife that the woman knew, and
- Increased sense of control during the labor and birth experience.
What happens if a woman has a serious medical problem?
Certified Nurse-Midwives in Missouri have collaborative arrangements with physicians in the event of serious medical problems or emergencies. This is one of the standards established by the ACNM. Many CNMs in Missouri work in practices with Obstetricians/Gynecologists or Family Practice Physicians.