faq about midwives

What is a certified nurse-midwife (CNM)?

Midwife means “with woman” and CNMs care for women throughout the life cycle. CNMs provide prenatal, gynecologic, family planning and primary health care. We deliver babies and support women to breastfeed. 


Where do certified nurse-midwives practice?


CNMs in the District practice in a variety of settings including hospitals, free-standing birth centers, health maintenance organizations, private practices, not-for-profit clinics and in the home. 


CNMs are licensed to practice in all 50 states.


How is a CNM similar to a physician?


Midwives provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women. We provide prenatal care and deliver babies. We perform annual screenings such as Pap tests, cholesterol levels and mammograms. Midwives provide a wide variety of family planning methods and can treat common health problems. Midwives accept private insurance. Midwives in the District can prescribe medications. Midwives who practice in hospitals can order pain medication (such as epidurals). 


How is a CNM different from a physician?


Midwifery practice is driven by the belief that the major transitions in a woman’s life - puberty, pregnancy, birth and menopause - should be safe, satisfying, and sacred.

CNMs are experts in normal pregnancy and birth. We believe that with appropriate care, most healthy women can give birth with a minimum of medical interventions. We believe that medical technology should be used appropriately and on an individual basis. 

Midwives are not trained to perform surgery. Midwives sometimes manage more complicated patients side-by-side with physicians. Other times we refer women with significant health problems to our physician colleagues. 


The professional organization of CNMs is the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).


Midwives believe in evidence-based practice and encourage active participation of women and their designated support people in health care experiences.


What training and licensing do midwives have?


CNMs in the District are nurses who have received advanced training(usually a master’s degree) to become a midwife. For example, Georgetown University started educating CNMs in 1975. 


CNMs are licensed to practice by the DC Board of Nursing.