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(mĭd`wī'fərē), art of assisting at childbirth. The term midwife for centuries referred to a woman who was an overseer during the process of delivery. In ancient Greece and Rome, these women had some formal training. As the medical arts declined during medieval times, however, the skills a midwife possessed were gained solely from experience, and the lore was passed on through generations. With the upsurge of medical science about the 16th cent., the delivery of babies was accepted into the province of physicians, and as formal training and licensing of medical practitioners became more prevalent, these requirements extended also to women still engaged in midwifery. At this time professional schools of midwifery were established in Europe. Midwifery was only recognized as an important branch of medicine, however, when the practice of obstetrics was established. In the United States, due to rising medical costs and a burgeoning interest in natural childbirth and more personalized care, there has been a resurgence of interest in midwifery since the early 1970s.

Contemporary midwives attend births in hospitals and birthing centers as well as at home. Most midwives are registered nurses who have completed additional training in accredited institutions. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) can practice in all 50 states. Many are trained to deal with other gynecological issues, such as birth control and menopausal problems. Lay-midwives usually train by apprenticeship and are regulated by local statutes that limit what services they may perform.


See J. Litoff, The American Midwife Debate (1986).

References in periodicals archive ?
She wants to be a mid-wife, she wants to contribute to Australia and every indication from her teachers is she will succeed.
While delivering a baby was not planned, the Pajimo clinic staffs a mid-wife and Watson was eager to assist.
Multi-layered and multi--nuanced, the film deals with myriad emotions through the story of a mid-wife pitted against the numerous social, economic and political changes taking place at the end of the 20th century in a coastal village in south India.
She said: "The midwife was holding the baby and the doctor had his back to me and he moved fast to inject her but the mid-wife said, 'Is that the right amount you gave?
I'm so thankful that my mid-wife and doctor paid such wonderful attention to me and the little ladies," said Farr.
5k HSE grant to help with EUR4,000 cost of hiring mid-wife for home birth
The advanced practice nurse is prepared in one of these four roles: clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse mid-wife, or nurse practitioner.
One aspect of the event that was not mentioned in much of the coverage was noted by Bishop MacDonald himself in a letter to his American constituents that was posted on the diocese of Alaska Web site: "My task over the next few years is to mid-wife the creation of a native jurisdiction within the Canadian church.
As another bald eagle nesting season approaches on Catalina Island, Peter Sharpe is once again ready to mid-wife as many eaglets as he can.
The proposed shake-up of maternity services to be decided in the New Year would see Hexham's baby unit becoming permanently mid-wife led, North Tyneside following suit, and Wansbeck Hospital continuing to offer a full consultant-led service.
But when the 47-year-old former child star paid a surprise visit to long-lost cousin Miss Cresswell, a retired mid-wife from St Athan, she didn't bat an eyelid.