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What is a Certified Professional Midwife?

Karyn Maier
Updated May 17, 2024
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A certified professional midwife (CPM) is an independent health care professional who is trained in assisting women during pregnancy and childbirth. A nurse midwife does more than simply coach or instruct an expectant mother through the birthing process on delivery day. In fact, the midwife plays an essential hands-on role in this natural life event every step of the way, often from the time of the conception through postpartum follow-up. In addition, even though the title may seem to imply otherwise, a certified professional midwife may be male or female.

In terms of prenatal care, the midwife typically conducts an initial interview with the mother-to-be to develop an individualized birthing plan. At the mother’s discretion, this consultation may also include the woman’s life partner, as well as older children or other family members, particularly if they plan to be present at the birth. The midwife will also take a complete medical history and risk assessment at this time, noting any complications that may have occurred during previous pregnancies and deliveries. He or she may also make recommendations as to the level of obstetrical care or medical intervention that may be anticipated, if necessary.

A certified professional midwife possesses a particular set of skills that set him or her apart from conventional obstetric staff. For one thing, a midwife is usually much more focused on supporting the emotional well-being of the mother than the ordinary nurse or physician has time or training to provide. For another, a midwife is trained to provide individualized counseling, which may be of significant importance in the event of the unexpected, such as a birth defect or unplanned cesarean section. He or she is usually available to provide ongoing support at times outside of regular office hours, including evenings and weekends. In addition, according to the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), the certified professional midwife is the only international professional designation that necessitates training and experience in providing support services in non-clinical settings.

Training to become a certified professional midwife requires meeting the certification standards as outlined by NARM, and fulfilling a competency-based curriculum that incorporates more than 1300 hours of providing supervised clinical care to include a minimum of 20 births, 10 of which must be in non-clinical settings. Additional clinical experience includes 75 prenatal examinations, 40 postpartum consultations, 20 newborn evaluations, and more. The model of care and standards of certification have been expanded to include international certification standards through a joint cooperation between NARM and The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) and the Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC).

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Karyn Maier
By Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to WiseGeek is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill Mountain region, Karyn is also a magazine writer, columnist, and author of four books. She specializes in topics related to green living and botanical medicine, drawing from her extensive knowledge to create informative and engaging content for readers.
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Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to WiseGeek is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill...
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