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What is a Midwife?

Jes LaBleu

Midwife and MCU faculty member Jes La Bleu

The definition of a midwife varies depending upon where you live in the world. In the United States there are two categories of midwives: nurse-midwives, who are trained in both nursing and midwifery, and direct entry midwives, who are not necessarily nurses before they train to become midwives. Upon graduation from the Midwives College of Utah, a student will obtain a degree in midwifery and be eligible to apply for the national credential of Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Canadian graduates must complete additional requirements to become a Registerd Midwife (RM) in Canada.

Helpful Resources to Understand Midwifery Designations

As defined by North American Registry of Midwives
“A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a knowledgeable, skilled and professional independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) and is qualified to provide the Midwives Model of Care. The CPM is the only midwifery credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings.

Most CPMs own or work in private home or birth center based practices throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Providing continuous care for women throughout their childbearing cycle, CPMs generally carry a relatively low client load (averaging 3-6 births per month) which allows for more personalized and comprehensive care than typical obstetrical practices. The scope of practice of the CPM is derived from the NARM Job Analysis, state laws and regulations, and individual practice guidelines developed by each midwife according to her skills and knowledge.

Based on the MANA Core Competencies, the guiding principles of the practice of CPMs are to work with women to promote a healthy pregnancy, and provide education to help her make informed decisions about her own care. In partnership with their clients they carefully monitor the progress of the pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum period and recommend appropriate management if complications arise, collaborating with other healthcare providers when necessary. The key elements of this education, monitoring, and decision making process are based on Evidenced-Based Practice and Informed Consent.

As defined by American College of Nurse Midwives
“CNMs are registered nurses with graduate education in midwifery. CNMs provide general women’s health care throughout a woman’s lifespan. These services include general health check-ups and physical exams; pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care; well woman gynecologic care; and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. CNMs are able to prescribe a full range of substances, medications, and treatments, including pain control medications”.

As defined by Canadian Midwifery Regulators Consortium
“In summary, a Canadian Registered Midwife is an autonomous professional who offers a high quality of maternity care to women and their families.”

As defined by World Health Organization
Midwifery encompasses care of women during pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum period, as well as care of the newborn. It includes measures aimed at preventing health problems in pregnancy, the detection of abnormal conditions, the procurement of medical assistance when necessary, and the execution of emergency measures in the absence of medical help.”

As defined by Midwives College of Utah student, Gail Uptain
“A midwife is a woman who sees pregnant women and tries to guess how far along they are. She tries not to ask too many questions about their pregnancy and delivery plans. She cries spontaneously at movies when a baby is born safely, and laughs to think she can actually help a girl become a woman by birthing her own baby. A midwife can’t believe she is headed out in the cold and snow again.  A midwife wonders if she is too tired to drive home. A midwife is afraid sometimes (many times). A midwife is brave sometimes. A midwife doesn’t often hear someone tell her she is beautiful. A midwife loves the snowplow drivers as her only companions on dark, snowing and blowing midnight trips. A midwife believes that birth is a miracle.”

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