A nurse midwife career is a small but growing niche for registered nurses medical careers. These nursing professionals specialize in helping women during pregnancy and childbirth. Recent years have seen a lot of growth in the numbers of nurse midwives, but there are still well under 10,000 certified nurse midwives practicing in the United States. Demand started growing slowly in the 1970s and 1980s, with the burgeoning interest in natural health and alternative health care. In the early days, most midwives weren’t nurses; instead, many of them were simply lay women who came from a religious background that centered around close-knit communities that encouraged women to give birth at home, such as the Mennonites. Others learned their trade on communes. As the 1990s began, the interest in home births and midwife delivery began to expand into the mainstream, and the number of women entering a nurse midwife career began to grow.
Currently about 10 percent of all births in the U.S. involve the services of a nurse midwife. While many nurse midwives work only with women giving birth at home, others work only with hospital births, and a number of them work with both. Most women choose to use a nurse midwife during their pregnancy and delivery because they believe that modern childbirth practices are unnatural and impersonal. Therefore, most of them have no desire to be given drugs for pain during labor. The nurse midwife has the authority to administer drugs if the woman changes her mind, or if it becomes medically necessary, but in most cases no drugs are used. Once labor pains begin coming rapidly, the nurse midwife usually stays with the woman until the baby is successfully delivered. If she observes complications developing, the nurse midwife will call in an obstetrician if in a hospital setting. For complications during a home birth, arrangements will be made for transportation to a local hospital. (For ease of reading, this article refers to midwives with female pronouns. While there are a few male nurse midwives, they are extremely rare – in 2008, for example, there were only three in the entire state of Pennsylvania.) During the months of an expectant woman’s pregnancy, the nurse midwife will meet with her regularly for prenatal care, and advice on other health issues. Typically, nurse midwives spend much more time with the mom to be than a typical ob-gyn would. Many nurse midwives love their career; for most, the biggest drawback is having to be available on a moment’s notice when labor begins.
In order to begin a nurse midwife career, a person must earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which leads to the title of registered nurse. Additionally, they will require specific training in midwifery in order to be certified. Most nurse midwives started out as RNs and then branched out to specialize by taking the required classes. However, more and more schools are offering specific nurse midwife programs, which enable the student to earn both her RN and degree and get the training needed to practice as a nurse midwife in one degree path. Currently, there are over 50 of these specialized programs across the country, and more are expected to be developed as the preference for delivery via nurse midwives keeps growing. After graduating from her midwife training, the nurse must take and pass the Certificate Examination for Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) test, which is administered by the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). Failure to pass will result in not being licensed as a nurse midwife. Earnings for those in a nurse midwife career are very good. Most earn between $80,000 and $90,000 a year, while some earn over $100,000 a year. Salaries should remain high, as should prospects for job growth over the coming years, as more and more women choose to employ nurse midwives during pregnancy and childbirth.