American Midwives, Part 1

Midwife with fetal monitorOne of the reasons home birth midwifery in our country is trickier than other first world countries is because in the United States we have several different types of midwives. In the Netherlands, there is one type of midwife. One. That's it! And this is the one route to become a midwife in the Netherlands: midwifery candidates apply to one of three midwifery academies (these academies are each a part of an applied science university). It is a very competitive application process and only about 1/3 that apply will be accepted. It is a four year, full-time program. The clinical portion of the training occurs both in hospital and in homes. Once a midwife graduates, she registers in their national health practitioner registry (which is open to the public) and has earned her legally protected title, verloskundige. It is a thorough, clear-cut path to midwifery.

And then there is the United States… let the confusion begin! We have Certified Nurse Midwives, Licensed Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives, Certified Midwives, lay midwives, traditional midwives... is that enough? It can seem very overwhelming and complicated for someone seeking out a midwife for their birth. What do all these titles mean? What’s the difference?

That’s what we’re going to take a look at in this series. A simple first step to understanding the different types of midwives is to look at the certifying bodies and member organizations.

The certifying bodies for midwifery are responsible for administering the certification exams and awarding the individual certifications. There are two midwifery certifying bodies in the USA: American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) and North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). The AMCB is considered the Gold Standard for midwifery certification and is the certifying body for Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Midwives(CMs); NARM is the certifying body for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). Licensed Midwives (LMs) also fall under NARM as it is the NARM entrance exam they take. Specific requirements for LMs may vary by state in order to take the exam.

The certifying organizations are often confused with the professional organizations for midwives. The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) is the professional organization for CNMs and CMs; the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM) is the professional organization for CPMs; and, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) is the professional organization for any midwife. These professional organizations work to unite midwives and promote midwifery-led care. Each have their own mission, goals, values, etc. The professional organizations (ACNM, NACPM and MANA) are not responsible for licensing, certifying, or holding midwives accountable.

 So in short, midwives in the USA basically fall into one of these three categories:

1. AMCB certified
2. NARM certified
3. Uncertified

Up first, we’ll take a closer look at AMCB certified midwives.  Stay tuned!

Click to read more of this series:

American Midwives, Part 1 (currently reading)

American Midwives, Part 2 

American Midwives, Part 3