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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Editor’s Correction: What is a Midwife?

We apologize to Erin Kaspar-Frett for our mistake of calling her a lay midwife in our last issue. Erin explains the difference between a CNM and a lay midwife below.

What is a Midwife?

by Erin Kaspar-Frett

Many might assume that a midwife is a midwife. While in some countries this may be true, in the US, there are stark differences. Certified Nurse Midwives attend and receive a nursing degree first and then go on to receive their Master’s degree in Midwifery. Their training includes rounds as a nurse and then as a student midwife. They can prescribe medications and typically work for a hospital and clinic.

The Licensed Midwife first becomes a Certified Professional Midwife and then applies for licensure in their state. Wisconsin and Minnesota both offer licensure. In some states, with the exception of Certified Nurse Midwives, midwifery is illegal.

The path to becoming a Certified Professional Midwife is also varied. Some attend a Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) accredited school, learning academics through schooling and apprenticing with a more experienced midwife. After finishing school, the candidate must take the National American Registry of Midwives (NARM) written exam, an all-day, extensive exam testing the knowledge of the midwife candidate. Once passing the NARM exam, the midwife becomes certified. Thereafter, she may choose or be required to go on to become a Licensed Midwife, if her state has or requires licensure.

The other path to becoming a CPM is as a direct entry midwife (DEM). A DEM to CPM candidate participates in academic self-study and apprentices with an experienced midwife. In this path, she will take a NARM skills exam and then take the NARM written exam. After passing both exams, she becomes a CPM. She may also go on to become a Licensed Midwife.

The CPM/LM may not prescribe medication, but she may administer some medications, in accordance with state law. Medications are generally used for situations such as post-partum hemorrhage, giving Rhogam to an Rh Negative mother, or administering newborn vitamin K.

A DEM, Traditional, or Lay Midwife, is a midwife who apprentices directly with an experienced midwife, often participating in self-study. She does not get her CPM or LM, either by choice or because it is not available under the laws of her state.

Giving birth is one of the most important, powerful, and transforming experiences of a woman’s life. The factor that has the most impact and effect on the outcome of each birth is the woman and couple’s comfort. It is of utmost importance to trust the caregiver and feel comfortable in the setting chosen for birth.

Erin Kaspar-Frett is a Licensed, Certified Professional Midwife with a Master’s of Science in Midwifery from the Midwives College of Utah. She lives with her family in Ellsworth, Wisconsin and serves a geographical area within a two hour radius of her home office. She can be reached at 612-801-9967 or For more information about Erin and the safety of homebirth please visit
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