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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 ?
It did have clean water, sterilized equipment and a trained mid-wife, plus her U.
Mill thus saw himself as something of a mid-wife helping give birth to a world beyond the transitional one in which he lived, a new "organic" world in which love of self and love of other would form almost an identity.
All of the adopted children were born in the same nursing home, and it seems that the mid-wife who ran the home arranged the adoptions and facilitated the illegal practice.
Following an insightful introduction by Jolly, Morton studies the historical transformations of the role of the traditional mid-wife in Tonga.
The story begins with two events: the murder; and Hannah Trevor, local mid-wife and healer, learning of the death of her long-absent husband, the father of her dead children and a Tory sympathizer who long ago fled to Canada.
The most important step is finding a supportive doctor or mid-wife and hospital or birthing centre; the book also outlines practical suggestions such as exercises to turn a posterior or breech baby.
While the program opted not to disturb its existing services it did cooperate in providing access to its mid-wife team and mid-wifery program structure.
Large multispecialty "polyclinics" that often see 1,000 patients a day and that may or may not be closely associated with a hospital (although all of them are linked through the networking system); in rural areas, regional clinics down to first-aid stations manned by nonphysician personnel, usually a nurse mid-wife and another health care worker.
Instead, the government acts as mid-wife for mergers in which stronger banks absorb the weak.
To date, more than 64,000 children have been vaccinated, and more than 28,000 women had access to a mid-wife during labour.