Midwives have been assisting women through prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care for centuries. These traditionally female healers have been recognized in many cultures since ancient times under various names that derivate from the same meaning: "with woman".
While traditionally serving women through home births, in modern times midwives provide services in hospitals and birth centers, as well. In the United States, midwifery has grown rapidly in practice and popularity since the 1980's. However in Europe, the assistance of midwives through childbirth is still much more commonplace.
Today, a midwife's role is essentially the same as it has been for thousands of years. She counsels pregnant women, attends their birth and provides postpartum care. A midwife is trained to assist primarily through normal childbirth and to recognize and respond to irregularities and complications requiring referrals outside her expertise. (In contrast, an obstetrician is a specialist trained to deal specifically with illness during pregnancy and related surgical procedures.) Midwives are trained to be sensitive to an expectant mother's physical and psychological state, and can offer considerable emotional support for new parents. Midwives view pregnancy and birth as a very natural process.
In the United States, midwives can be classified in different ways dependant on their training and specialty:
Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): Practitioners must have a bachelor's degree and complete both nursing and specific midwifery training, after which they must pass both national and state licensing exams.
Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): Practitioners need not be nurses, but must pass written and hands-on examination standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives.
Direct Entry: Direct Entry midwives are not required to be nurses or pursue any specific course of study and are not given license to practice in every state.
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