A midwife is a highly trained professional who is with a woman -- physically,
psychologically, emotionally and often spiritually -- throughout her pregnancy.
The term "midwife" literally means "with woman." Highly trained certified
nurse-midwives (CNMs) also provide care to women beyond their childbearing
"Most medical people have a very mythical view of midwives as dirty old
women coming in at the last moment to catch a baby as it is being born," says
Vickie Hall. She is a certified professional midwife in Garland, Texas.
Midwives offer a comprehensive, holistic approach to pregnancy. Part teacher,
part counselor and part health specialist, a midwife provides prenatal care
to mother and child, assists the mother during birth, and takes care of mother
and child following birth.
Midwives work in a variety of settings. Most certified nurse-midwives (CNMs)
work in hospitals or private practices. Others work in birth centers or in
their clients' homes.
The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) says it has over 6,000 members.
Women dominate the field. According to the ACNM, just two percent of CNMs
in the U.S. are male. Men in the field constantly have to fight stereotypes.
"The big misconception comes from the spouse or partner of the pregnant
patient," says Thomas Morrison. He is a CNM. "They think that if you're a
male midwife that you should be called a midhusband."
According to the ACNM, there is a national shortage of CNMs and certified
professional midwives (CPMs) in the U.S., and employment opportunities will
continue to increase.
Midwifery isn't a 9-to-5 career. In hospitals, midwives work 12- or even
24-hour shifts. Self-employed midwives must be ready at a moment's notice
to assist with the delivery of a child.
"It's really hard to be on call 24 hours a day, every day," says midwife
Anessa Maize. "But when I agree to help a woman with her birth, I commit myself
to be there for her when she needs me."
Midwives must be in good physical condition to deal with the long hours
and stress that accompany the profession.
Many nurse-midwives work in inner cities and other under-served parts of
Help mothers give birth