What is Nurse Midwifery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2019
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Nurse midwifery is a type of nursing practice which includes advanced training in obstetrics and gynecology. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse (RN) who has also completed training in midwifery, and people with this certification may practice in hospitals, birthing centers, and at home, depending on their comfort level and where they are working. People who have completed much the same training without being certified as RNs are known as certified midwives, and they offer a similar standard of care.

The formal practice of nurse midwifery dates to the 1920s, when several colleges of nursing began including midwifery training for students who wanted to offer services to women with low-risk pregnancies. A CNM can offer prenatal care along with management of labor and delivery, followed by early evaluation and care for neonates. Typically, nurse midwifery is aimed at women with uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies, and if a practitioner is concerned that a client's case may be more complex, the client will be referred to an obstetrician for advanced care.


In some regions of the world, women are encouraged to consider nurse midwifery when giving birth, and the government may promote the use of nurse midwives in hospitals, birthing centers, and at home. In other regions, obstetrics is primarily overseen by physicians with a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology, with nurse midwifery services being less available to patients. There may also be restrictions on practice, such as requirements that nurse midwives work only in hospitals, or only under the supervision of a physician.

The training for a nurse midwife usually includes a bachelor's degree at a minimum, with many nations requiring a master's in nursing for people who want to practice as midwives. After completing nursing school and several years of practice, a prospective nurse midwife can receive specialized obstetrics and gynecology training, and pursue certification in nurse midwifery.

In addition to offering care during labor and delivery, some nurse midwives also offer basic gynecological care including annual exams and family planning services. They may also work as labor nurses, part of the labor and delivery team in a hospital, working under the supervision of a doctor to monitor patients during childbirth. Work in this field can be very emotionally challenging at times, but many practitioners of nurse midwifery also say that it is immensely rewarding, as few moments in medical practice are as exciting as bringing new life into the world.



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