The United States recognizes three different types of certification for midwives, each of which require different credentials. Choosing a midwife with certain certifications is a key part of deciding which midwife might be the right attendant for your unique birth.
All midwifery certification types are centered around the “midwifery model of care,” which is set up as an alternative to what is referred to as the “medical model.” The two models refer to two different philosophies surrounding the general birth experience. In the midwifery model, birth is seen as a natural process of life. In the medical model, birth is seen a medically significant experience. The model of care is the same among all three types of certification, but the difference between the three lies in where the certification comes from, and the qualifications each type of certification requires midwives to meet.
- Certified midwife: Certified midwives haven’t been trained in medicine other than midwifery, but they have completed a course of study approved by the American Midwifery Certification board, and have a graduate degree from an accredited college or university, where they’ve taken certain specific science course. They are also required to meet certain requirements for clinical experience. Certified midwives are only licensed to practice in some states.
- Certified nurse midwife: CNMs are fully qualified registered nurse practitioners, who have completed a graduate degree and are registered nurses. In addition to being registered nurses, though, CNMs have completed additional training in midwifery, and are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, as well as certified to practice medicine. CNMs can do pretty much anything obstetricians can do except perform C-sections. Women with higher-risk pregnancies who hope to work with a midwife often choose CNMs for their deliveries.
One other type of midwife you might encounter is the Certified professional midwife. Certified professional midwives belong to the North American Registry of Midwives, but are not certified by the American Midwifery Certification board. One of the biggest differences between the two organizations is that the North American Registry of Midwives doesn’t have a specific degree requirement for certification. Another significant difference is that training for CPMs is specifically oriented towards out-of-hospital births. Many states do not accept CPMs’ certification because this lack of specific criteria for certification, the way that lack can open the door for gaps in education, as well as because of the danger that out-of-hospital births can pose.
Depending on your state, midwives at certain levels of certification may not even be an option for you, and others may be more or less difficult to get your insurance to cover the cost of. In any case, though, it’s important to know what each prospective midwife’s certification could mean for you and your unique birth.
- “Why AMCB Certification?” AMCBMidwife. American Midwifery Certification Board, Inc., 2013. Web.
- “The Midwives Model of Care.” CFMidwifery. Midwifery Task Force, Inc., Citizens for Midwifery, 2005. Web.
- “How to Become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).” GraduateNursingEdu. GraduateNursingEDU.org, 2017. Web.