In a lot of ways, finding the right midwife is just like finding the right doctor. You have to take into account both practical and personal considerations. As far as practicality, you want to think about their ability to help you through one of the most significant experiences of your life. Personally, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable with them, and that their birth philosophy meshes well with yours.
Pick a location
One of the factors that influences which midwife is the right person to see you through your unique pregnancy is where you hope to give birth. If you’d prefer to deliver at a birthing center than a hospital (or a birthing center within a hospital), then a midwife may be the right provider for you. Midwives also commonly attend home births, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends delivering in a hospital or accredited birthing center, as home births can be riskier for both mother and child.
Not all midwives are created equal – in the US, there are a few different types of midwives that are defined by the type of certification they hold. These levels of certification are a good thing to keep in mind when figuring out which midwife is the right fit for your birth.
- Lay midwife: Lay midwives may have learned midwifery through practice or apprenticeship, but may not have an official certification, so it’s recommended that women not use lay midwives for prenatal care.
- Certified professional midwife: Certified professional midwives belong to the North American Registry of Midwives, but are not certified by the American Midwifery Certification board. These midwives do not require a graduate degree for certification, and don’t have the same clinical background as certified midwives and certified nurse-midwives. It’s recommended that women not use certified professional midwives for prenatal care.
- Certified midwife: Certified midwives tend not to have a generalized medical background, but do have extensive training as midwives, and meet the qualifications set by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Certified midwives are only licensed to practice in some states. Certified midwives, and certified nurse-midwives, are the recommended midwives for prenatal care.
- Certified nurse midwife: CNMs are registered nurses who have completed additional training to deliver babies, and are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, as well as certified to practice medicine. CNMs conduct annual check-ups, prenatal visits, and deliveries for a number of women. Women who hope to work with a midwife but have higher-risk pregnancies often choose CNMs who work in collaboration with OB/GYNs for their deliveries.
Depending on which level of certification you’re comfortable with your midwife having, there are various organizational and regional databases to help find the midwife you’re looking for in your area. The certified midwife and certified nurse midwife levels of certification, and the standards that their certifications require them to meet generally make them the safest choices for midwives.
There are a wide assortment of databases you can use to look up a midwife in your area who meets your specifications, but nothing can really replace word of mouth. Asking for recommendations from other people can be the best way to cut a list of many possibilities down to a couple.
- Friends and family: If you know someone, or even known someone who knows someone, in the area who gave birth under a midwife’s care, they’re probably happy to tell you about the experience, who they worked with, and if that person was wonderful or not. The American College of Nurse Midwives also has a list of midwives in your area.
- Medical professional: It may be kind of a long shot depending on who your general practitioner is. But your doctor or nurses at your hospital might give you a great lead – you can try asking them if there’s a midwife they know who they might especially recommend.
- Search online: Sure, it’s not exactly “the good, old-fashioned way,” but online review sites are a great source of consumer information on everything from lunch spots to haircuts, and midwives are no exception.
The danger of asking for advice in this, like any other situation, is that what other women are looking for from a midwife may not be exactly what you need, but as long as you let your own observations and desires guide your final choice, with luck you should be able to find exactly the midwife you’re looking for.
Once you have a few candidates in mind, don’t hesitate to have a few preliminary conversations with your potential midwives before you make a final decision. You never know when someone who seems perfect on paper is going to clash with your personality in person. It’s your birth experience, so it’s important that you feel comfortable.
- “Life as a CPM.” NARM. NARM- North American Registry of Midwives, 2017. Web.
- “Find a Midwife.” Midwife. American College of Nurse-Midwives, n.d. Web.