In many parts of the world, the majority of prenatal care is provided by midwives. The use of midwives is growing more common in the United States, as well.
There are several types of midwives, including lay or traditional midwives, who are usually informally trained; certified midwives, who have undergone training and certification in programs that vary according to state; and certified nurse-midwives, who have degrees in nursing and are qualified to provide complete obstetric care for women in low-risk pregnancies. All midwives are legally required to be associated with a physician or group of physicians who can deal with pregnancy or birthing complications.
Most states now permit nurse-midwives to prescribe medication, but they will not perform cesarean births or administer anesthetics. Some nurse-midwives have solo practices and will assist you if you decide to have your baby at home, although most are affiliated with hospitals or birthing centers.
For more information about the American College of Nurse-Midwives, go to www.midwife.org.