What is a Midwife?

A midwife is a trained professional with special expertise in supporting women to maintain a healthy pregnancy and birth, offering expert individualized care, education, counseling and support to a woman and her newborn throughout the childbearing cycle.

A midwife works with each woman and her family to identify their unique physical, social and emotional needs. When the care required is outside the midwife’s scope of practice or expertise, the woman is referred to other health care providers for additional consultation or care. 

The Midwives Alliance of North America, the North American Registry of Midwives, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council and Citizens for Midwifery agreed on a short definition of what “midwifery care” means. However, just because a person is a midwife does not guarantee that they provide this kind of care: consumers looking for a midwife should ask questions to determine if a prospective caregiver will be able to provide the kind of care they seek. 

Midwives in the U.S.

There are two main categories of midwives in the U.S., nurse-midwives, who are trained in both nursing and midwifery, and direct entry midwives, who trained as midwives without being nurses first. Within the category of direct entry midwives are several subcategories reflecting the varying legal status of these midwives in different states and the fact that until recently there was not a nationally recognized credential available for direct entry midwives. Direct entry midwives include highly trained and very competent midwives; however, anyone may call herself a midwife at this time, and if you are looking for a midwife, it is up to you to find out if the midwife is qualified and experienced to your satisfaction. If a midwife is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), you are assured that she has met specific requirements for certification (and re-certification every three years).

Direct-Entry Midwives (including Licensed Midwives)

  • Not required to be nurses.
  • Multiple routes of education (apprenticeship, workshops, formal classes or programs, etc., usually a combination).
  • May or may not have a college degree.
  • May or may not be certified by a state or national organization.
  • Legal status varies according to state.
  • Licensed or regulated in 27 states.
  • In most states licensed midwives are not required to have any practice agreement with a doctor.
  • Educational background requirements and licensing requirements vary by state.
  • By and large maintain autonomous practices outside of institutions.
  • Train and practice most often in home or out-of-hospital birth center settings.

For more information, contact your state’s midwifery organization or Citizens for Midwifery

The Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential and the North American Registry of Midwives

  • Not required to be nurses.
  • Multiple routes of education recognized; direct entry midwives and certified nurse midwives can qualify for this credential.
  • Education programs accredited by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council prepare students to meet the requirement for the CPM.
  • Out-of-hospital birth experience is required.
  • Have met rigorous requirements and passed written exam and hands-on skills evaluation.
  • Administered by the North American Registry of Midwives.
  • Legal status varies according to state.
  • Practice most often in homes and birth centers.

For more information e-mail info@narm.org or call 1-888-84-BIRTH (Eastern Time)

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and the ACNM’s CM credential

  • Educated in both nursing and midwifery, primarily in the hospital setting; are "advanced practice nurses."
  • Must have at least a Bachelors Degree when training is complete.
  • Have successfully completed a university-affiliated nurse-midwifery program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and passed the exam.
  • Out-of-hospital clinical experience is not required.
  • Are legal and can be licensed in all states.
  • Most practice in hospitals and birth centers.
  • In most states must have some kind of agreement with a doctor for consultation and referral.

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About Midwifery Care at NOVA Natural Birth Center

Continuity of care is the cornerstone of midwifery practice. Because we believe so much in the importance of developing a strong relationship with your care provider during your pregnancy, clients at NOVA Natural Birth Center will receive care primarily from a team of two midwives. You will have an opportunity to meet with all of the midwives over the course of your pregnancy, but two midwives will be the main care providers to see you for your visits and be available to answer your questions throughout your pregnancy. These two midwives work closely to communicate with each other and with you about all aspects of your care. In addition, all of the midwives and office staff meet regularly to review our clients and their unique needs. We feel this team approach helps us to personalize your care, while allowing you to benefit from the experience and wisdom of all of the midwives in our practice.

When you are in labor, at least one of the two midwives on your team will be on call, and will plan to attend you in labor, unless extenuating circumstances prevent her from being able to be with you. In the unlikely event that one of the midwives on your team is not available, one of the other midwives in the practice will care for you during your baby's birth.


NOVA Natural Birth Center
4200A Technology Court ♦ Chantilly, VA 20151
Phone: 703-357-3808 ♦ Fax: 888-770-0243

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