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About Midwives

What is a midwife?

The word midwife comes from two old English/German words, mitt (with) and wif (woman) Thus, the word midwife, means with woman. The modern midwife is a health care professional who cares for women. Most midwives provide care for women during pregnancy, labor and delivery. But the modern midwife's scope of practice often goes beyond pregnancy-related care.

What is a Certified Nurse-Midwife?

Certified Nurse-Midwives(CNM) and Certified Midwives(CM) are professional midwives who meet qualifications and standard established by the American College of Nurse-Midwives(ACNM). In the state of Oregon, a midwife certified through the ACNM is educated and trained at the Masters Degree level to provide health care services to women of all ages. Many CNMs also provide care to newborns in Oregon. CNMs are licensed both as Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

What can a Certified Nurse-Midwife do?

Certified Nurse-Midwives care for pregnant women both in the prenatal period as well as during labor and birth. In the state of Oregon 14% of all births are attended by CNMS. Most CNM-attended births occur in hospitals, although some CNMs attend births in the home and in out-of-hospital birthing centers.

In addition to maternity care, CNMs also provide family planning and gynecological services to women of all ages, including physical exams and Pap smears. CNMs write prescriptions for medicines and birth control, and many are qualified to take care of some primary care problems.

What happens if a woman has a serious medical problem?

Certified Nurse-Midwives in Oregon are independent practitioners and able to provide total care for healthy women. In addition, all CNMs have consulting and collaborative arrangements with qualified physicians in the event of serious medical problems or emergencies. This is one of the standards established by the ACNM. Most CNMs are in joint practice with Obstetricians/Gynecologists.

How does one become a Certified Nurse-Midwife?

Most CNMs are Registered Nurses who have returned to school for additional education and training in midwifery. Midwifery is taught at 42 accredited colleges and universities throughout the country. The midwifery program in the School of Nursing at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland has been educating nurse-midwives for almost 25 years. Almost all CNMs in Oregon have a Masters Degree.

Although most CNMs are also Registered Nurses, not all midwives certified through the ACNM are nurses. There are now programs where non-nurses may become certified by the ACNM.

Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland offers the top ranked midwifery program in the country.

Visit the ACNM's Become a Midwife page for more general information on becoming a midwife.

Interview with Carol Howe on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Think Out Loud:

Looking Back on 40 Years of Midwifery

Carol Howe, CNM, DNSc, FACNM, DPNAP, FAAN, recently retired from practice at Oregon Health & Science University's Faculty Nurse-Midwifery Practice. Dr. Howe was instrumental in forming the OHSU Nurse-Midwifery Practice, established the Master's Program in Nurse-Midwifery at OHSU, and served as the Program Director until 2015. In this interview, she reflects on midwifery in Oregon over the past 40 years.

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