At WHA, you can receive reproductive health, wellness and pregnancy care from both OB/GYN physicians and nurse-midwives. And while many people with ovaries have an idea of what a “gyno” does, we’d like to help you better understand what midwifery care is all about.
Are all midwives the same?
There are two types of midwives who are licensed to care for people in Oregon:
- Certified nurse-midwives have master’s (or doctoral) degrees in nurse-midwifery from a program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. They must demonstrate clinical experience and pass the American Midwifery Board Certification exam. In Oregon, they are licensed to practice independently as nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives. Most work collaboratively with physicians and attend births in the hospital setting—but at WHA you can also receive care from certified nurse-midwives if you’re planning an out-of-hospital birth at our Midwifery Birth Center.
- Certified professional midwives may come from different educational backgrounds and may not have academic degrees, but they must pass a skills evaluation, written exam and demonstrate experience with out-of-hospital birth. In Oregon, they are licensed as direct-entry midwives and provide care in the home or in free-standing birth centers.
What’s the difference between a doctor and a nurse-midwife?
In Oregon you can get very similar care from certified nurse-midwives and OB/GYN physicians. Both care for people throughout pregnancy and attend births in the hospital. Midwives are experts in healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies and births while physicians are experts in the complications that can arise. Both are trained to provide wellness care and breast and cervical cancer screening for people throughout their lives. Both can help with all types of contraception and can diagnose and medically treat common gynecological concerns. OB/GYN physicians can also diagnose and manage more complex conditions and perform surgery, when needed.
Nurse-midwives attend hospital births, too—even if you want an epidural.
In the hospital nurse-midwives support a wide range of birth plans, including people planning low-intervention, un-medicated births and those who know they want or decide to have an epidural for pain management. They support vaginal birth after a prior Cesarean section and consult with their physician partners as labor progresses. They can even assist your physician in surgery if a C-section becomes necessary.
Can I see a midwife if I’m not pregnant?
Yes! Nurse-midwives are trained to care for people across the lifespan, providing family planning, wellness and gynecology—even help with the menopause transition.
If OB/GYNs and midwives do a lot of the same things, why would I choose midwifery care?
The philosophy of midwifery care centers the individual and their life experiences, values and preferences. Midwifery training is based in shared decision-making; this means midwives work hard to make sure patients understand their options and can make informed decisions about their own health care—and they respect the dignity and autonomy of each person in doing so. And while certified nurse-midwives appreciate the normalcy of lifecycle events like pregnancy, birth and menopause, they are trained health care providers with a deep understanding of medical evidence. They use medical interventions and technology, when appropriate, and consult with other members of the health care team, when needed.