What Is a Midwife?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on March 03, 2023
2 min read

A midwife is a trained health professional who helps healthy women during labor, delivery, and after the birth of their babies. Midwives may deliver babies at birthing centers or at home, but most can also deliver babies at a hospital. Women who choose them have had no complications during their pregnancy.

Midwives may have different levels of training:

  • Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses who have graduated from an accredited nurse-midwifery education program and have passed a national exam. They can practice in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Certified midwives (CMs) are non-nurse midwives who have a bachelor's degree or higher in a health field, have completed an accredited midwifery education program, and have passed a national exam. Only a few states permit CMs to practice.
  • Certified professional midwives (CPMs) are non-nurse midwives who have training and clinical experience in childbirth, including childbirth outside of the hospital, and have passed a national exam. Not all states permit CPMs to practice.

There are lay (not certified) midwives, as well.

Like a doctor or an OB, your midwife can provide care before, during, or after your pregnancy. Your midwife will:

  • Provide family planning and preconception care
  • Do prenatal exams and order tests
  • Watch your physical and psychological well-being
  • Help you make your birth plans
  • Advise you about diet, exercise, meds, and staying healthy
  • Educate and counsel you about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care
  • Provide you with emotional and practical support during labor
  • Deliver your baby
  • Make referrals to doctors when needed

Midwives should have a relationship with an OB who provides council as needed. Your midwife may refer you to an OB for care if a problem happens during your pregnancy. They also may team up with another midwife or doula to help with your labor and delivery.

You may want to consider working with one if:

  • You want your childbirth to be as natural as possible, preferably without things such as an episiotomy,  labor induction, and other interventions.
  • You want the emotional, practical, and social support that midwives provide.