True or 0? Understanding the role of midwives

How much do you know about the role of midwives in modern healthcare? Shelly Boone, NP, CNM, PPG – OB/GYN, is a certified nurse midwife who also has more than a dozen years’ experience as a nurse practitioner in family medicine. She now serves women in Huntington County and will be delivering babies at Parkview Huntington Hospital as part of her practice. Enthusiastic about providing compassionate, relationship-based care for her female patients, no matter where they are on the age spectrum, she often finds herself educating women about the type of care she provides as a clinical midwife. Here, she addresses some of the myths about midwifery.

True or 0: Midwives have no formal education.

0. 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 experience. Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs) attend approximately 93 percent of all midwife-attended births in the United States, and as of 2010, they are required to have a master’s degree in order to practice midwifery.

True or 0: Midwives and physicians work together.

TRUE. CNMs and CMs work with all members of the healthcare team, including physicians. Midwifery care fits well with the services provided by obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs), who are experts in high-risk, medical complications, and surgery. By working with OB/GYNs, midwives can ensure that a specialist is available if a high-risk condition should arise. Likewise, many OB/GYN practices include midwives who specialize in care for women through normal, healthy life events. In this way, all women can receive the right care for their individual healthcare needs.

True or 0: Midwives only focus on pregnancy and birth.

0. Midwives have expert knowledge and skill in caring for women through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. But they also do much more. CNMs and CMs provide healthcare services to women in all stages of life, from the teenage years through menopause, including general health check-ups, screenings and vaccinations; pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care; well-woman gynecologic care; treatment of sexually transmitted infections; and prescribing medications, including all forms of pain control medications and birth control.

True or 0: Midwives can prescribe medications and order tests.

TRUE. CNMs and CMs are licensed to prescribe a full range of substances, medications, and treatments, including pain control medications and birth control. They can also order needed medical tests within their scope of practice and consistent with state laws and practice guidelines.

True or 0: Midwives cannot care for me if I have a chronic health condition or my pregnancy is considered high-risk.

0. Midwives are able to provide different levels of care depending on a woman’s individual health needs. If you have a chronic health condition, a midwife still may be able to provide some or all of your direct care services. In other cases, a midwife may play more of a supportive role and help you work with other healthcare providers to address your personal healthcare challenges. In a high-risk pregnancy, a midwife can help you access resources to support your goals for childbirth, provide emotional support during challenging times, or work alongside specialists who are experts in your high-risk condition to ensure safe, healthy outcomes.

True or 0: Midwives offer pain relief to women during labor.

TRUE. Midwives are leading experts in how to cope with labor pain. As a partner with you in your healthcare, your midwife will explain pain relief options and help you develop a birth plan that best fits your personal needs and desires. Whether you wish to use methods such as relaxation techniques or movement during labor – or try IV, epidural, or other medications – your midwife will work with you to help meet your desired approach to birth. At the same time, your midwife will provide you with information and resources about the different options and choices available if any changes to your birth plan become necessary or if you change your mind.

True or 0: Midwives only attend births at home.

0. Midwives practice in many different settings, including hospitals, medical offices, free-standing birth centers, clinics, and/or private settings (such as your home). In fact, because many women who choose a midwife for their care wish to deliver their babies in a hospital, many hospitals in the United States offer an in-house midwifery service. And because midwives are dedicated to one-on-one care, many practice in more than one setting to help ensure that women have access to the range of services they need or desire, and to allow for specific health considerations. In 2012, about 95 percent of births attended by midwives in the United States were in hospitals.

Interested in learning more? Shelly Boone will be available to talk with women who attend these upcoming events at Parkview Huntington Hospital:
Family Birthing Center Open House for prospective moms, Thursday, September 28, 4 – 6:30 p.m.
Healthy Steps health-and-wellness fair, Saturday, October 7, 7 – 11 a.m.


American College of Nurse Midwives (2017). Our moment of truth: Midwifery myths set straight. Retrieved from


Need assistance?

Contact us