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A midwife is a person, usually a woman, who assists other women in giving birth. Typically, this assistance extends throughout pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the newborn period. Midwives focus on delivering healthy babies in as natural a manner as possible; they also provide health counseling to mothers and families. Although obstetricians and midwives have much knowledge and experience in common, they occupy different professions. While both are concerned with a healthy pregnancy and delivery, obstetrations are prepared to deal medically with complications. It is not uncommon for midwives and obstetricians to collaborate.

Since the 1970s, a small but growing proportion of North American women have chosen midwives to attend their births. Many of these midwives are registered nurses with formal midwifery training and certification by the American College of Nurse Midwives. There are also "lay" or "direct-entry" midwives, who have not been trained as nurses. Midwife deliveries may take place in hospitals, birth centers, or homes.


Leféber, Yvonne, and Henk W. A. Voorhoeve. Indigenous Customs in Childbirth and Child Care. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1998.

Rooks, Judith P. Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Philadelphia:Temple University Press, 1997.

Faye B. Steuer

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 5