What is a Midwife?

A midwife is a clinical health care provider with a low-tech, high-touch approach. Midwives view pregnancy and birth as normal life events and their approach centers on physiologic birth, holistic care, and informed consent.

The Midwives Model of Care includes:

Short video from California Licensed Midwife Debbie Allen explaining home birth midwifery.

  • monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle

  • providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support

  • minimizing technological interventions and

  • identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.

The application of this model has been proven to reduce to incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.
(Midwives Model of Care definition is Copyrighted © by the Midwifery Task Force, all rights reserved)

For more on the history of midwifery in the United States, read about the Grand Midwives of the South.


What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

A midwife provides clinical healthcare while a doula provides emotional and physical support. Childbirth doulas provide information and support during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and postpartum. There are also postpartum doulas, full spectrum doulas, and other specialties.

The continuous support of a doula for hospital births has been proven to reduce the rate of C-section. Doulas can be hired for support in any birth setting, whether or not one is seeking a physiologic birth, medicated birth, or Cesarean birth.


Midwifery Care

  • Prenatal testing

  • Monitor childbearing person and baby during labor and postpartum

  • Newborn exam, postpartum care, breastfeeding support

  • Suturing of tears, resuscitation, administer medication

  • Recommend medical consultation or transfer when indicated

Doula Support

  • Information

  • Emotional support

  • Physical support and comfort measures

  • Advocacy


What is a Certified Professional MidwiFe (CPM)?

“A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a knowledgeable, skilled and professional independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) and is qualified to provide the Midwives Model of Care. The CPM is the only midwifery credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings.” (from NARM: What is a CPM)

CPM training is specific to birth in out-of-hospital settings, and CPMs provide primary maternity care for childbearing people in their homes and in birth centers.


What is the difference between a Certified Professional Midwife and a Certified Nurse midwife?

Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are trained specifically in out-of-hospital birth. They provide primary maternity care in homes and birth centers. In Massachusetts, almost all home birth midwives are CPMs. Because they cannot be licensed here, we do not have any CPMs working in birth centers.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs or “nurse-midwives”) are trained nurses with an advanced practice degree in midwifery. The majority of nurse-midwives attend births in hospitals, but they can also provide care in homes and birth centers depending on the applicable state regulations. Nurse-midwives provide lifelong reproductive care in addition to caring for pregnant people. Approximately two nurse-midwives in Massachusetts attend home births, and nurse-midwives also staff our state’s only two birth centers (both of which are owned by hospitals).