Should You Use a Midwife?

Is She Qualified?

CNMs (certified nurse-midwives) typically deliver in hospitals and birthing centers. These are registered nurses with advanced training in obstetrics and gynecology as well as specialized midwifery training; they've passed a certification exam and are licensed to practice in all 50 states. Many CNMs are employed by a hospital or work with a physician for consultation as needed. In most states, they can prescribe medication.

CM (certified midwife) is another credential from the American College of Nurse-Midwives. It doesn't require a nursing degree but, aside from that, certification is the same as that for a CNM.

CPMs (certified professional midwives) are accredited through exams by the North American Registry of Midwives, and their legal status varies according to state. They deliver babies mostly in homes or birthing centers.

"Lay" midwives -- caregivers who've had only informal training -- deliver babies without being certified by any national organization. Some states have very strict standards; others don't regulate midwives at all. (Check your state's laws regarding midwives at mana.org/laws.)

How to Find a Good Midwife

  • Ask your doctor, friends, relatives, other moms, or childbirth teacher for suggestions.
  • Check with your local hospital to find out which midwives, if any, deliver babies there. Make sure you check references and credentials before making a final decision.
  • The American College of Nurse-Midwives has about 6,200 practicing members. Visit midwife.org to find a registered nurse-midwife near you.
  • The Midwives Alliance of North America (mana.org) is a national organization that represents midwives. Go to its Web site or to midwifeinfo.com for lists of midwives, including those who do home births.

Insurance may cover a midwife.

Thirty-three states mandate that insurance companies in every state reimburse the cost of hiring a nurse-midwife, and most of the big health-insurance companies cover midwife services in every state. Check with your insurer to find out what your carrier allows.

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