6 Myths About Midwives

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Many people think midwives are people who help moms-to-be birth their babies at home without medication or medical intervention. While that may have been an accurate definition of the term in the early days of medicine, according to Henry Ford’s Janet Weatherly, CNM, today’s certified midwives are skilled professionals whose duties extend far beyond helping women give birth.

The Truth About Midwives

Even though midwifery has been around for centuries, the field is still shrouded in mystery. People don’t understand which services midwives are trained to provide or even how they get paid.

These six myths about midwifery are the most common:

  1. Myth: Midwives have no formal education. Actually, most certified nurse midwives (CNMs) in the United States hold a master’s degree in nursing or a related field. In fact, the state of Michigan requires it. CNMs also have to pass a national certification exam and renew their licenses every five years to ensure their knowledge base is up to date. Midwives who are not nurses also have to take these exams, but they’re called certified midwives (CMs), not CNMs, and they must also complete midwifery education training.
  2. Myth: Midwives don’t take insurance. Most CNMs do accept insurance and they typically care for women within the hospital or a private practice setting. As with any medical service, it’s a good idea to contact your insurer to confirm coverage and determine whether you need a referral.
  3. Myth: Midwives only care for pregnant and postpartum women. In fact, CNMs are qualified to care for women throughout their lives. “The term midwife means ‘with women,’” explains Weatherly. “As midwives, we’re trained to address any issues that affect women.” That includes providing screenings, vaccinations, contraceptives, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  4. Myth: Midwives don’t prescribe medication. CNMs are actually licensed to prescribe medications ranging from birth control to HRT, and everything in between. “At the same time, midwives try to give pregnant women enough support up front so they require fewer interventions during the birthing process,” Weatherly says. During labor and delivery, for example, they’ll help patients manage pain with positioning, relaxation techniques and other strategies. But in cases where the mom-to-be wants medication, a CNM will prescribe it.
  5. Myth: Midwives only provide care for home births. “The term midwife still has the connotation of a lady in the community who carries incense, garlic, and herbs and catches babies at home,” Weatherly says. But that’s a far stretch from reality. In fact, the vast majority of deliveries attended by midwives occur in a hospital. Using a midwife helps ensure a supportive birth experience within the security of a hospital environment.
  6. Myth: Midwives and doulas are the same thing. Doulas are not medical professionals. They are trained supporters who advocate for pregnant women and provide physical and emotional support during labor and delivery, and often after childbirth. Midwives not only provide emotional and physical support, but they are also responsible for monitoring the health of both mom and baby during labor and providing options related to delivery.

A Team Approach

Partnering with a midwife doesn’t mean cutting doctors and nurses out of the equation. Instead, CNMs and CMs work with all members of the healthcare team to ensure all patients, even those who are high-risk, get the care they need.

“This type of collaborative care between physicians and midwives offers the best of both worlds — advanced obstetrics care coupled with hands-on support,” Weatherly says.

Midwives are also uniquely suited to provide women with needed resources like lactation support, postpartum depression screening and treatment options during menopause. Even if you’re not pregnant, partnering with a midwife for your gynecological care allows you to start forming a relationship with a trusted provider who can care for you throughout all stages of your life.


To find a doctor or certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

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Janet Weatherly, C.N.M., sees patients for midwifery services and obstetrics at Henry Ford Health Center – Fraser and Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

Categories: FeelWell

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