Before there were OB-GYN departments and doctors to deliver babies, pregnant women had to rely on wiser and more experienced women, known as midwives, to assist them in their pregnancies. A midwife specializes in the care of women during their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, as well as assisting with the care of the newborn up to six weeks. They help women have healthy pregnancies and a natural birth experience by providing education and support. They also can provide primary care to women relating to reproductive health and offer services like contraceptive counseling and gynecological examinations. Midwives are health care professionals and complete comprehensive training and examination in order to be certified. To be a certified midwife, one must have at least completed a bachelor's degree and complete certification through the American College of Nurse Midwives.
If you are a nurse finding yourself drawn not only the specialized area of OB-GYN nursing, but also to the entire process of pregnancy and birth, you can specialize in it by becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. These types of midwives offer their patients the best of both worlds as they are trained and licensed in midwifery, as well as nursing. The additional nurse license helps a nurse-midwife to be able to provide the most comprehensive care and services to women. Nurse-midwives can give women more individualized care than an obstetrician, and are an attractive option for women who want help learning and adapting to the physical, as well as emotional, changes pregnancy brings. Along with the personal benefits of using a nurse-midwife, it is also a safe option. According the American Pregnancy Association, using a nurse-midwife is an appropriate decision in low risk pregnancy situations, which make of 60 to 80 percent of all pregnancies.
To become a nurse-midwife you must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, have a current and unrestricted license as a registered nurse, and obtain certification from the American College of Nurse Midwives. To earn certification you must be educated in midwifery through an accredited program affiliated with an institution of higher learning, be able to demonstrate your clinical competence, and pass a rigorous national certifying exam. Nurse-midwives can work in public, private, military or university hospitals. Working in a hospital environment ensures that physicians are always around and easily accessible in case of an emergency. Nurse-midwives can also work in private practices, such as OB-GYN offices, freestanding birth centers, and home birth practices. By working in private practices nurse-midwives can be more independent because there are less institutional rules and therefore more freedom to empower patients in their healthcare decisions.