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Frequently Asked Questions

Who are Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) in California?

Certified Nurse-Midwives are RNs with advanced education in women's health, prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum, and newborn care. Among the CNMs approved to practice, approximately 80% hold a Master's degree and 5% hold a doctoral degree. Midwives also do more than deliver babies. Ninety percent of visits to CNMs are for primary and preventive care such as nutrition counseling, family planning care, gynecological services, and management of common illnesses for their female clients.

How is a nurse-midwife different from a physician?

Nurse-midwives are trained in the care of primarily healthy women, both pregnant and non-pregnant. Our holistic, woman-centered model of care includes the physical, mental, and social needs of the entire family. Studies show that this model of care results in fewer interventions such as medications, cesareans, etc. Midwives also take care of women with higher-risk needs in collaboration with physicians.

Can a nurse-midwife administer medications in labor for pain relief?

Yes, nurse midwives working in hospitals have access to all of the pain medications that physicians do, including narcotics and epidurals. However, nurse midwives use a variety of non-pharmacological techniques for laboring women including position changes, hydrotherapy, and other techniques. Evidence has shown that many of these techniques offer equal and in some cases, improved pain relief and are well received by laboring women. Midwives in CA can also prescribe medications including methods of contraception and treatment for common health problems. Women who choose to birth at home or in a freestanding birth center would not have access to epidurals or an extensive list of medications, but do have the opportunity to use the non-pharmacological techniques discussed above.

How much training does a nurse-midwife have?

Certified nurse-midwives (CNM)s in California must have a nursing background and then attend a two-year Masters program in midwifery. Upon completion of their midwifery education, they must pass a national certification exam. Many CNMs also have other forms of training such as childbirth educator, lactation consultant, massage therapist, nurse practitioner, amd other advanced degrees. For more information on why you should choose a CNM, please visit the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

How is a nurse-midwife licensed in California?

Nurse-midwives are first licensed as registered nurses in California and certified by the state to practice as nurse-midwives. It is not a separate license. RN licensure and nurse-midwifery certification verification may be obtained at the California Department of Consumer Affairs BreEZe License Verification Page.

How many births do Certified Nurse-Midwives attend each year in the US?

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs) attended 309,514 births in 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. (This is the most recent year for which final birth data are available.) This represents 11.7% of all vaginal births, or 7.8% of total US births.

Where do nurse-midwives practice in CA, and who are their clients?

Nurse-midwives practice all over CA, in rural and urban settings, in all types of hospital settings, in private practices, health departments, birth centers, and at home. Midwifery clients are those who are looking for a model of care that is client-focused and family-centered. Midwifery care embraces the holistic and humanistic principles of health promotion, education, counseling, advocacy, and collaboration. Women from all walks of life use the services of nurse-midwives from educated professionals to adolescents.

If I go to a nurse-midwife, do I need a doula or labor assistant?

A nurse-midwife does provide labor support but the decision for a doula is something you should discuss with your midwife. Some women with special needs find that they need both professionals while others are comfortable with a nurse-midwife alone. Nurse-midwives and doulas are a perfect team for women giving birth, but the decision on who will attend a birth is a personal decision that can only be answered by mothers, their midwives, partners, and family.

Can a nurse-midwife take care of my baby?

Nurse-midwives are trained to take care of newborns as part of their comprehensive educational training. If you choose to birth your baby at home or in a birth center, your nurse-midwife will be responsible for the care of your baby at birth and up to a month thereafter. If you birth in a hospital, the nurse-midwife will do the initial assessment of your newborn in collaboration with a pediatric nurse practitioner or pediatrician.

How can I find a midwife?

The American College of Nurse-Midwives hosts a database of around 4,000 midwifery practices. For more information, or to find a midwife, please visit the ACNM Find a Midwife page.

Other Questions

If you have another general question, please feel free to email us at president@sdmidwives.org