In the United States midwives are licensed and regulated at the state level, which means that the professional landscape is dynamic (and confusing!). This also means that midwifery varies from state to state. Two types of midwives are licensed to practice in Washington State: Licensed Midwives (LMs) and Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs).
Licensed Midwives (LM)
In Washington State, licensed midwives are licensed by the Department of Health and are able to contract with both public and private health insurance plans. They typically complete a 3-year accredited program, which may grant a Master’s, Bachelor’s, or Associates degree. These programs focus on training midwives to practice autonomously in an out-of-hospital setting, typically attending births in client homes and freestanding birth centers. Licensed Midwives are able to care for clients during the childbearing cycle only, and do not typically provide well-woman care outside of this time period. They are able to carry and administer routine and emergency medications, but are not permitted to write prescriptions.
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State (MAWS) represents most Licensed Midwives in Washington State: http://washingtonmidwives.org/for-consumers/for-families.html
Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
Nurse midwives typically complete an undergraduate nursing program, followed by a 2-year midwifery master’s program through a nursing school that covers well-woman care from puberty through menopause as well as pregnancy and childbirth. Typically, nurse-midwives are trained in hospital settings, though they may choose to gain additional training in out-of-hospital birth settings where they are also permitted to practice. Nurse-midwives are able to prescribe medications and see women of all ages for well-woman care.
Learn more from The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM): http://www.acnm.org/
Certified Professional Midwives (CPM)
Some midwives also carry a national credential (Certified Professional Midwife) through the North American Registry of Midwives. This credential requires education, training, and continuing education that is similar to that required of a licensed midwife, and is part of a national effort to advance the profession of midwifery as an autonomous, regulated, and integrated healthcare profession.
Learn more from the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM): http://nacpm.org/