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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 ?
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.
June 3, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) has provided its first-ever formal endorsement of a Midwife Kit as a standard for midwives trained to ICM's competency standards.
The new resource 'Midwives and Medicines (NI) 2014', was developed through a partnership arrangement with midwives and pharmacists from Northern Ireland (NI) and aims to provides midwives with up to date information on medicines management through:
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.
This is a tool used effectively in the UK and it looks at the ratio of midwives available in the workforce.
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.
Zenzi Grabowski, a clinical charge midwife in the hospital's birthing suite, said heavy workloads meant many core midwives felt exhausted and morale was low.
Though tired by old age she still has a remarkable memory for detail and people, remembering many of the hard cases she had to deliver both in the West Bank and in Jordan and noting that what midwives learned, even if not through text books, came to benefit many people in the society.
Midwives across the country will celebrate the International Day of the Midwife on Wednesday.
Also in Australia, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) celebrated International Midwives' Day (IMD) this year by acknowledging the important role midwives play in improving maternal health in Australia and throughout the world.