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What is a Homebirth Midwife?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 17, 2024
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A homebirth midwife is a medical professional trained to assist women in delivering their babies at home. There are three classifications of homebirth midwives in the United States: certified nurse-midwives, certified midwives, and certified professional midwives. Both certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives are required to have a Master's Degree.

The third classification is a certified professional midwife, whose educational experience is more varied. They only attend homebirths, as opposed to certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives, who can perform healthcare in a clinical setting and are often likely to do so. There are several ways that a certified professional midwife can receive training, such as through college courses, self-study, or online training. Certified professional midwives receive specific training in out-of-hospital births. They are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM).

Homebirth midwives are regulated separately by each state in the US. Not all states permit all classifications of midwives to participate in homebirths, and some states require a physician's approval for certain types of midwives to do so. It is important to understand what certification and level of training a homebirth midwife has early in the pregnancy. This will prevent needless stress closer to the delivery date.

About 1 percent of babies are born each year at home. Women choose homebirths for various reasons, including hope for a less stressful experience, less chance of experiencing unnecessary medical intervention, and the belief that exposing themselves and their newborns to hospitals creates an increased risk of infection.

Women who hope to experience a homebirth should use a homebirth midwife for their prenatal care. The midwife has experience delivering babies, and will remain with the woman throughout the labor and delivery. A midwife also receives training so that she can recognize the warning signs that labor is not progressing normally, and can arrange for transportation to a hospital.

Women hoping to experience a homebirth should consider a homebirth midwife who has an established association with an obstetrician. This allows the midwife to transfer the laboring mom to the hospital if she develops complications, and for the mother and baby to receive care from an obstetrician that is familiar with the midwife, and who supports the choice the mother has made.

A homebirth midwife often rejects potential clients, or may require that the patient visit an obstetrician before accepting her as a patient. The main concern most pregnant women and healthcare providers have with homebirth is the lack of immediate access to healthcare. Homebirth midwives work to mitigate this issue by accepting only low-risk patients. A patient who develops complications during pregnancy, or carries a baby that does not appear to turn into the birth canal, is not a candidate for homebirth.

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