How Do I Become a Midwife?

MidwifeThere are several educational routes to take if you are planning to become a midwife. A midwife is a trained professional who helps women have a healthy pregnancy and birth, either at home or in a hospital setting. In the United States, there are three different professional credentials for midwives: Certified Professional Midwives (CPM), Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM), and Certified Midwives (CM). Read on to learn more about the training, experience, and education necessary to embark on a career as a certified midwife.

Certified Midwife (CM)

A certified midwife is a professional midwife who is not a nurse, but who has completed the required training to take the midwife certification exam given by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Two U.S. colleges offer this option; the Midwifery Institute of Philadelphia University has a complete distance learning program for certified midwives, while SUNY Downstate Medical Center offers a partial distance program. These programs have both master’s and certificate options. To be eligible, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than nursing and meet certain science prerequisites. CMs may practice in five states: Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

This pathway to becoming a midwife is designed for those who are already registered nurses with either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Once you become an RN, you can choose to attend either a master’s program for midwifery or a combined bachelor’s/master’s program if you only have an associate’s degree. More information on these programs is available from the American College of Nurse-Midwives¬†website.

Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)

A CPM is a professional midwife who practices independently and who meets the certification standards set forth by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). This credentialed certification is designed for those who have been educated as a midwife outside of the first two traditional pathways. He or she must submit a portfolio detailing educational and clinical experience as a midwife, which includes attending at least 10 births as an observer; 20 births, 25 prenatals (including 3 initial exams), 20 newborn exams, 10 postpartum visits as an assistant to a qualified professional; and 20 births, 75 prenatals (including 20 initial prenatals), 20 newborn exams, and 40 postpartum exams as a primary midwife under supervision. Once this experience is verified, he or she must also pass an examination.

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In general, the best path to becoming a midwife depends on the knowledge, skills, education, and experience you already possess. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than nursing and want to practice in one of the five states that allows CMs to attend births, that certification may be right for you. If you have experience as a midwife through mentorship and other independent training, then you may consider becoming a CPM. For most, however, the best path to become a midwife is by attending nursing school and becoming a certified nurse midwife.