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What does a Midwife do?

Childbirth is, at its core, both simple and complicated. Women's bodies are designed to bear children, and yet, so many things can go wrong when it comes time to deliver a baby. An experienced, professional midwife can make the labor and birthing process safer and more comfortable for everyone involved.

A vital health care professional

Forget any preconceived notions you might have of a sarong-clad treehugger humming New Agey music while concocting natural herbal remedies; a midwife is a licensed health care professional who provides mothers (and mothers-to-be) with education, counseling, and support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

An education in gynecologic and reproductive health is a crucial foundation of this profession. Expectant mothers might choose to have their babies delivered by midwives for one of several reasons:
  • Midwives are often proponents of "natural" childbirth
  • The mother has chosen to deliver the baby at home
  • Midwives may be more affordable natal care options than other types of specialists
Because of the nature of the work, you must have excellent communication skills, a good bedside manner and unending patience in order to succeed as a midwife.

The many faces of midwifery

There are several different types of midwife, each requiring specific qualifications. Your licensing may depend upon the state you live in, and the state(s) you wish to practice in.
  • A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) is both a trained and licensed nurse and midwife, and is classified as an "advanced practice nurse." They are registered nurses who most often hold at least a master's degree and are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
  • A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a trained midwife who is certified by the North American Registry of Midwives.
  • A Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM) trained independently through an academic program or an apprenticeship.
  • A Certified Midwife (CM) is trained in midwifery, generally holds at least a bachelor's degree, and is certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
  • Finally, a Law Midwife is someone who trained through apprenticeship, and does not hold any certifications.
Depending on the level of education you would like to pursue, this career offers multiple options and advancements. Your educational level is also likely to determine your salary potential.

A career is born

The amount of money you earn as a midwife will vary, depending upon where you live, where you work, and what level of education and certification you have. Midwives work in a variety of professional settings, from hospitals to health clinics to private practices. Midwifery can be a fairly autonomous career, so many midwifes operate their own practices. The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that most midwives work in hospitals as part of a health care team that may include physicians, nutritionists, social workers, and other health care professionals.

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