Midwifery Myths Set Straight

The profession of midwifery has evolved with today’s modern health care system, but there are many myths about midwives in the United States based on centuries-old misunderstandings. You might be surprised to learn the truth about some of these common midwifery myths.

True of False?

Midwives have no formal education.

FALSE. Most midwives in the United States have a master’s degree and are required to pass a national certification exam. There are many different types of midwives, each holding different certifications based on their education and/or experiences. Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Midwives (CMs) represent 93% of the midwives in the United States. As of 2010, midwives are required to have a master’s degree in order to practice.

Midwives and physicians work together.

TRUE. CNMs work with all members of the health care team, including physicians. Midwifery care fits well with the services provided by obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs). By working with OB/GYNs, midwives can ensure a specialist is available should a complication arise. Likewise, many OB/GYN practices include a team of midwives who specialize in care for women through all stages of life. In this way, all women can receive the right care for their individual health care needs.

Midwives only focus on pregnancy and birth.

FALSE. Midwives have a wealth of knowledge in caring for women through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, but they offer so much more. CNMs provide health care services to women in all stages of life, from teenage years through menopause. This can include general health check-ups, screenings, vaccinations, prenatal care, well-women gynecologic care, and prescribing medications.

Midwives can prescribe medications and order tests.

TRUE. CNMs are licensed to prescribe a full range of substances, medications, and treatments. Often times, they prescribe pain management medications, as well as birth control. CNMs can also order necessary medical tests within their scope of practice, state laws, and practice guidelines.

Midwives cannot care for me if I have a chronic health condition, or my pregnancy is considered high-risk.

FALSE. Midwives are able to provide different levels of care depending on a woman’s individual health needs. Even if the patient has a chronic health condition, a midwife can still provide some, if not all, direct care services. Sometimes, a midwife may play more of a supportive role by working with a medical doctor to address health challenges. In the case of high-risk pregnancy, a midwife can access proper resources to support a woman’s goals for childbirth, provide emotional support, and work alongside specialists. This collaborative effort ensures a safe and healthy experience.

Midwives offer pain relief to women during labor.

TRUE. Midwives are experts when it comes to coping with labor pains. As a health care partner, midwives will explain pain relief options in an effort to develop a birth plan that best fits personal needs and desires. Pain relief options can range from relaxation techniques, to epidurals and other medications. Midwives will provide their patient with plenty of information and resources about the various choices available to create a birth plan. Should a patient change their mind, midwives are able to adjust the birth plan as needed.

Midwives only attend births at home.

FALSE. Midwives practice in many different settings, including hospitals, medical offices, birthing centers, clinics, and private settings (such as a home). Many women who choose a midwife for their care wish to deliver in a hospital. In fact, in 2012, about 95% of births attended by midwives in the United States were in hospitals. This is why many hospitals now offer an in-house midwifery service. Since midwives are dedicated to one-on-one care, most practice in more than one setting to ensure women have access to the range of services they desire.