Have you ever wondered how your midwife learned her skill or what her credentials mean?  Or has your wonderful birth experience made you curious about becoming a midwife yourself?  If the answer to either of these questions is “yes” then this post is for you. Let’s take a look at the various paths to becoming a midwife followed by some helpful steps you can take to decide if this is the path for you.

The path to becoming a midwife varies by state. In our state, California, you can become a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) or a Licensed Midwife (LM). CNMs are generally trained to work in hospitals, and LMs are trained to work in out-of-hospital settings like home and birth center.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) first become registered nurses, usually with  bachelor degree. Next, CNMs go on to a Masters program in advanced practice nursing that includes primary care and clinical training in women’s health and birth.  After training they qualify to sit for board exams and then become certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) and licensed by the Board of Nursing. The CNM’s education prepares them to take care of women throughout their lifecycle for primary care as well as reproductive and well woman needs. This includes family planning, gynecological exams, and prenatal and postnatal care. Nurse Midwives can prescribe medication and while they provide health care in settings from the birth family’s home to clinics or birth centers,  most work in hospital based practices.

Most LMs first enroll in accredited schools that provide didactic and clinical midwifery education. Students learn in the apprenticeship model – working in clinical placements in private home birth practices or at free-standing birth centers. Once their education is complete, typically within two to four years, they qualify for midwifery board exams. The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) administers this exam. Once passed, NARM administers the credential Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). From there, the CPM can apply for licensure to practice in her state. Licensed Midwife (LM) is a certification through the Board of Medicine. CPMs and LMs care for healthy, low risk women.They provide prenatal, birth, and postpartum care, and newborn care in the first few days of life.  They also provide family planning support and well-woman care, all iin an out-of-hospital setting.

As you can see, the journey to becoming a midwife is long and involves years of education and clinical preparation. This makes sense when you think of the important job a midwife plays in the life of a family. Want to get your feet wet before you apply?  Here are some ideas….

  1. Attend a birth- Even if you have given birth yourself, nothing beats the experience of being present for a live delivery.  How will you handle the sights, sounds, and emotions of birth?
  2. Volunteer- Get some experience at your local birth center, hospital, etc.  This is a great way to observe the different types of midwives, doctors, and nurses to understand the separate but important roles that they all play.
  3. Catch up on some reading- We suggest Ina May’s Spiritual Midwifery (insert link).
  4. Start a different path- Look into becoming a doula or a support companion.  This is a shorter path that might lead to a career of it’s own or help you decide to take the plunge into midwifery.
  5. If the CNM route interests you, consider starting with nursing school or an accelerated RN to Master’s program.