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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 ?
Midwives are also a front line of defense against disease.
This year, I would like to recognize, in particular, the role that Inuit, First Nations and Mtis midwives play in their communities to bring safe, traditional birthing closer to home.
According to her, the agreement provides for drafting a specific statute for midwives and a training reform programme.
Midwives reported not being listened to when they told managers they feared for the safety of mothers and babies, while others experienced bullying from senior staff.
It highlights how important it is that midwives are able to spend the time they need with mothers and babies to ensure they are delivering the best possible care and to spot potential problems.
Weston said health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease--which can cause pregnancy complications--meant the work hospital midwives were doing was becoming more challenging.
Over 370,000 nurses and midwives are due to renew their general or non-practising registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia by 31 May.
Data provided in response to Parliamentary Questions showed that 1074 midwives in Scotland are aged 51 or over, while just 342 are aged under 30.
Shortly after the conference, UBINIG shared the story of one patient and the midwives who helped her On a festival day, 26-year old Shahana, pregnant with her second child, started to experience labour pains.
Midwives usually work in solo practice, take little time off and are on-call for their women clients, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
The College's poll of 2,000 midwives, 950 student midwives and 100 maternity support workers found that 36% would like to "do more" for women and their babies.
Research by midwifery staff in Abu Dhabi's Corniche Hospital suggests that the work of midwives is 'poorly understood' and they are less autonomous than their counterparts abroad.