What is a midwife?

Women have options when it comes to giving birth, including who delivers the baby.

While women today have more choices than ever when it comes to childbirth, midwifery is as old as time. In the U.S., the first licensed midwives date back to the early 1700s. At a time when there were few doctors and it was considered indecent for a man to attend a birth, midwives played a vital role in bringing a new life into the world while keeping the mother safe during the oftentimes dangerous delivery.

There are many types of midwives certified to perform a variety of functions. Midwives who practice in the medical setting are certified nurse midwives (CNMs). They are highly trained nurse practitioners who are board certified in midwifery.

“Certified nurse midwives provide the full scope of obstetric and gynecologic care,” said Bianca Weaver, CNM, with Advocates for Women’s Health, a part of Norton Women’s Care. “We see women of all ages, including those who are beyond their childbearing years.”

Weaver’s primary focus is care of women who are pregnant or in their childbearing years. This includes both general gynecologic care as well as obstetrics. She differs from an OB/GYN in that she places an emphasis on natural, unmedicated birth or an alternative birth plan.

“During labor, a midwife provides hands-on, holistic support for the woman and family,” Weaver said. “In addition, I am medically trained to deliver the baby, just like an obstetrician.”

Midwifes are sometimes confused with doulas. A doula offers labor support but does not have the medical training nor the responsibility of delivering  the baby.

“A big part of my job also is education. I typically spend more time with the woman during appointments to educate and offer support so that she can make the best choices for herself and her baby,” Weaver said. “This starts before conception and goes well beyond childbirth.”

Think a midwife is right for you?

A midwife:
  • Gives holistic support during labor and natural childbirth
  • Educates on family planning, pregnancy and birthing options
  • Supports individualized birth plans
  • Delivers babies
  • Cares for women at all stages of life, including gynecologic care


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