What is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

4 Min Read Published September 18, 2023
certified nurse midwife meaning

Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) lean on their expertise to play a vital role in women's healthcare. CNMs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with specialized training in midwifery who offer holistic care. Their duties cover everything from prenatal and pregnancy care to postnatal support.

CNMs attend over 300,000 births annually in the US. Their evidence-based care leads to lower medical intervention rates, reduced cesarean sections, and improved maternal and neonatal outcomes. CNMs are also some of the highest-paid nurses in the country.

Read on as we explore what it means to be a certified nurse midwife and how CNMs promote their patients' health and well-being.

Certified Nurse Midwife Meaning

What does CNM stand for? CNM is a medical abbreviation for certified nurse midwife. 

CNMs are registered nurses (RNs) with additional education and training in midwifery. As an advanced practice midwife, a CNM provides competent and compassionate healthcare services during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.

After securing the required professional certification, CNMs work with a team of healthcare professionals to:

  • Deliver babies
  • Provide prenatal and postnatal care
  • Offer gynecological services
  • Provide reproductive health education to patients
  • Promote a patient's overall well-being

CNMs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, birthing centers, and private practices.

What Does It Mean to Be a Certified Nurse Midwife?

Being a CNM means that you’re a registered nurse who has completed advanced education and training in midwifery. After CNMs complete an accredited program and earn certification, they have the skills, experience, and credentials to provide comprehensive healthcare to patients throughout their lifespan, with a particular focus on pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

In the United States, CNM programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). ACME evaluates midwifery education programs to ensure they meet ethics, education, and training standards for healthcare professionals pursuing midwifery credentials.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Midwifery Programs

What Are the Requirements to Become a Certified Nurse Midwife?

Becoming a certified nurse midwife is a rewarding career path for registered nurses who are passionate about women's health and childbirth. As an aspiring CNM, you must meet specific requirements and tackle specialized education and training to embark on your professional journey.

Become an RN-BSN

Because midwifery programs exist at the graduate level, you must complete an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. This undergraduate degree lays the foundation for a nursing career while preparing students for advanced practice roles.

Then, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN.

Gain Clinical Experience

To pursue a career in midwifery, you must gain extensive clinical experience as an RN. Working in women's health settings provides vital experience and exposure to maternity care.

Attend a Midwifery Program

Future CNMs will want to seek out and complete an ACME-accredited CNM program that supplies high-quality education and training. These programs typically include extensive clinical training, where you gain hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced CNMs. Throughout this training, you’ll develop crucial clinical competencies in maternity care.

CNM Certification

CNM program graduates can take the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) national certification exam. After passing this exam, you’ll earn CNM credentials.

State Licensure

To practice as a CNM, you must also obtain state licensure. Licensure requirements can vary between states, so make sure you meet your state's specific criteria.

What Do Certified Nurse Midwives Do?

With their advanced training and expertise, CNMs offer a holistic approach to maternity care, focusing on their clients' physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Prenatal Care

Nurse midwives provide regular prenatal check-ups and monitor the health of both parent and child. They also offer guidance on nutrition, health, and wellness during pregnancy.

Labor and Delivery

CNMs assist their patients during labor and childbirth, providing support and pain management while ensuring a safe delivery experience.

Postpartum Care

After birth, CNMs continue to care for the parent and newborn. They address any postpartum concerns and provide guidance on newborn care.

Gynecological Services

Certified nurse midwives offer various health services, including gynecological exams, family planning counseling, and management of reproductive health issues.

Education and Counseling

CNMs educate their clients about reproductive health, birth control options, and pregnancy-related topics, empowering them to make healthy and informed decisions.


Nurse midwives also work with other healthcare professionals in team environments to ensure comprehensive and compassionate patient care. These teams include obstetricians, pediatricians, and other nurses.

Supportive Care

CNMs provide emotional and psychological support throughout the pregnancy and childbirth journey. They foster a positive, caring, and equitable healthcare environment.

What's the Difference Between Certified Nurse Midwives and Other Midwives?

The primary difference between certified nurse midwives and other types of midwives lies in their educational background and scope of practice. CNMs must be APRNs with specialized training in midwifery and proper certifications and licensures. Their advanced education and skillsets allow them to provide healthcare to women throughout their lifespans, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Other midwives, such as lay midwives, certified professional midwives (CPM), and certified midwives (CM), have their own educational and training requirements. These midwives have varying scopes of practice and often focus on out-of-hospital births and low-risk pregnancies.

CMNs also make more than CPMs and CMs. A lay midwife might earn about $54,000 annually, while CNMs are some of the highest-paid nurses in the country, earning a median annual salary of $120,880.

Is a Nurse Midwife a Doula?

No - a doula vs midwife comparison reveals distinct differences between these maternity care providers. CNMs are specially trained medical professionals. They provide pre and postnatal care, delivery support, and gynecological services.

Conversely, doulas don't have specific education standards, though they can earn certifications to verify their expertise. Doulas provide emotional, physical, and educational support to women and their families throughout the pregnancy.

Find Out More About Certified Nurse Midwives

James Mielke
James Mielke
Nurse.org Contributor

James Mielke is a freelance writer currently based in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to writing extensively about higher education and career topics, he has contributed to Eaten: The Food History Magazine, The Midwesterner, and Golfweek. James has a history degree from Nashville's Belmont University and is on a spiritual quest to make the world's best biscuit.

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