How To Choose A Midwife

Heather Dessinger

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I Don’t Know About You . . .

But there was never a point in my life where I said to myself, “Gee, I think I’d like one of my best friends in the world to have a rubber-gloved, front row seat while I push my baby out.”

And yet, that’s exactly what happened. My good friend Dr. Cindy attended Katie’s birth as my chiropractor, then Micah’s as my chiro and primary midwife. Just for thematic consistency I’d love for her to act as chiro, midwife and maybe birth photog with baby #3, but unfortunately the prenatal visits would require a 12 hour trek back to our home state.

Needless to say, when I found out I was expecting, it was pretty hard to pick up a (virtual) phone book and start calling random midwives in our new hometown.

Now, I’m not sure how it happened . . .

But I found an AMAZING birth team on the first try. It was almost as if someone sprinkled fairy dust on my phone and said –Bippity! Boppity! Birth! –which annoyed me a bit. I like to make well-researched decisions, so even though I pretty much knew after our first conversation I created this checklist to make sure I had all my bases covered.

How To Choose A Midwife That Is Right For You

Step 1: Ask Yourself What Kind Of Birth You Want

There are several types of midwives, some which have formal education and some who do not (such as lay midwives). The most common types who have completed training for midwifery are Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM’s) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPM’s). Most CNM’s practice in hospitals, while CPM’s have specific training and expertise in out-of-hospital births.

So what kind of birth do you want? A natural hospital birth? A waterbirth at a birth center? To birth at home? Don’t worry if you’re not sure, you can interview midwives who work in different environments. Ask them about the pros of working with them, and the cons of the other environments. Then ask the same question and see what the other side says.

Step 2: Skulk

Okay, don’t skulk exactly, but look around a bit. Check out potential midwives websites to read up on their overall philosophy, services offered, certifications held, what clients have to say about them, etc. If you have friends who have birthed with a midwife, have a similar birth philosophy to yours, and had a good experience ask for a recommendation. From this pool create a list of midwives you’d like to interview (usually 2-4).

Step 3: The Interview

Here are 40 questions to get you started, plus 44 more to pick and choose from. I personally would also ask about their position on using fetoscopes instead of dopplers and sonograms. (This is just my personal preference)

Step 4: Trust Your Instincts

Though everyone I interviewed for Babypotamus #3’s birth was well-qualified, I just knew after talking with Jordan of Your Birth Midwifery that I’d found my team. It wasn’t just that she was the first to mention the Weston A. Price Foundation and asked my if I’d read Food Renegade’s new book, Beautiful Babies. It wasn’t even that her partner, Daphne, graciously accepted raw milk during our interview and didn’t flinch when I had a nice cold glass myself. Those things definitely helped, but it was more of a gut thing, which is something I deeply trust when making these kinds of decisions.

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 As Needed

If at any point your original birth plan or choice of care provider feels like it is no longer the right choice for you, give yourself permission to alter the plan. Women who were 100% gung-ho about hospital birth have switched to a midwife at 40 weeks and vice-versa. Do what you feel is in the best interest of your baby.

What would you add to the list?

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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27 thoughts on “How To Choose A Midwife”

  1. What is your suggestion for those of us who live in a state (like NC) where it is “illegal” for Midwives to practice therefore, locating one tends to be extremely difficult? We’d LOVE to have a CMW/CPW deliver our child (#3 for us too) but have been “forced” to use standard OB’s due to the legality status. While there are a scant few birthing centers, they are hours away and most CPW’s there are only allowed to practice in a hospital setting, following the attending OB – acting more like a Doula than an actual CPW. Suggestions??

    • That is a very tough question. Personally, I would go with the OB even though I would feel a sense of injustice in not being able to choose another type of care provider. My reasoning is this: In states where CPM’s are illegal, midwives are often afraid to transfer a client when necessary for fear of repercussions, and even if they do they cannot communicate anything to the doc that takes over without exposing themselves to prosecution. So if a mama needs medical attention the doc will basically be flying blind for awhile until he figures things out on his own. For me, home birth will be my first choice every time, but I could not knowingly cut off what could be lifesaving communication opportunities between my care provider and a doctor to achieve it.

      For that reason if it were me I’d opt for an OB that was okay with allowing me to labor while moving around and did not require continuous monitoring, etc. Then I would hire a doula to be present both to help with the labor and advocate for me. It would be my hope that in taking these steps I’d end up with a hospital birth that was more like a home birth in some ways.

    • I am a DONA certified doula in NC and I admit the pickings are pretty slim. legally as women we have no right to a homebirth as it currently stands. It is ridiculous, sad, and disappointing to me after living in Tennessee that is so homebirth friendly. Plus, it costs the healthcare system more money!I can suggest a couple of things, unless your area doesn’t have any Certified Nurse Midwives I believe they (CNMs) are the next best option to an OB unless you have an OB and hospital that is natural birth friendly. Get involved in changing the face of birth in our state and contact The North Carolina Friends Of Midwives! stay updated with the legislation and call your reps and rally anyone you know with a similar interest to do the same! Your reps need to hear from you! let them know they work for you! Also, if you haven’t already hire a doula. (A plug from a doula I know) but, we can help you have a comfortable birth!

      And, I just read Heather’s response and it is a good one too. πŸ™‚

      • Great suggestions, Becky! I hadn’t thought of a CNM but that would be first choice rather than an OB I think. Unless there was an OB with a reputation for being natural-birth friendly.

    • I too live in NC. We did find a Midwife. I saw her and a traditional Dr at first even tough I had had a homebirth with my first child because she was 1 1/2 away. Figured back up plan. She was licensed in another state. There are several Midwives here and many on the border in GA, TN, SC,etc. I know there are even some in the Asheville area that are nurse midwives and licensed. We did end up going back to FL to have a home birth at my Mom’s with our old Midwife because of my Husband’s work at the time. Good Luck!

    • If you ask around from doula groups, homeschool groups, Breastfeeding groups…..I’m sure you could locate a practicing home birth midwife close enough to most anywhere in NC. Today the CPM Decriminalization bill S107 was unanimously passed through the senate Judiciary 1 committee….now it goes to the floor of the Senate for a vote and on to the House….now is a great opportunity to support the midwives model of care in NC.

    • Hi,
      I had my third baby in NC 17.5 years ago at home with midwife Kathy Davies, just look her up and if she’s not close to you she might be able to give you the name of someone who is.North Carolina

      Audrey Trepiccione
      7920 Hebron Church Rd
      Garner NC 27529
      Phone: (919) 345-6881

      Daycrest Midwifery Services
      Kathleen Davies, CPM
      101 Quill Ammons Holler
      Marshall NC 28753
      Phone: (828) 689-4019
      Mobile: (828) 230-2343
      Pager: (828) 236-4435
      E-Mail: [email protected]
      “Practicing Midwifery in the Spirit of Titus 2:3-5”

      Monarch Midwifery
      Donna M Galati, CNM
      594 Longwood Dr
      Fayetteville NC 28314
      Office: (910) 484-5137
      Mobile: (859) 489-1409
      Offering holistic Midwifery Model of Care births in your home. Water births available, we also bill insurance.

  2. I had a very low-risk birth with my son but I went the mainstream way of giving birth with an OBGYN in a hospital. I’m not pregnant with #2 yet but next time around I’d love to do things differently. As far as going with a midwife, I’m curious as to whether I still need to visit an OBGYN or if the midwife does it all. How does it work switching from mainstream doctors to more natural healthcare? Do midwives to pap smears or anything or do you still need to see a regular doctor for stuff like that?

    • It really depends on your midwife. Some of them work closely with an OB, while some just do it all on their own. I had my 4 babies using the same midwife, and for the 1st and 3rd, she wanted me to visit the OB for a few weeks to get certain blood work done. She also had the tools to perform a pap smear if needed and could send it off to a lab. Some of it also depends on your insurance or if you are handling it all out of pocket. You really need to interview your potential midwifes to find the answers to these questions. Good luck! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Mary! I’ve never seen an OBGYN during any of my pregnancies, though due to the way things work in my new state I will have one visit with my midwives back up doctor during my pregnancy with Babypotamus #3. Some midwives offer pap smears, some do not. All of mine have πŸ™‚

      Many are also able to draw blood for lab tests, etc. Hope that helps!

      • I’m currently going through my first Ob-Gyn experience. Can someone point me to a direction where I could read more information about my natural options? I felt a little bit uninformed going in and didn’t want to feel pressured to do anything. My Ob-Gyn said some doctors will discharge you if you refuse to follow their guidance. When are pap smears, breast exams, and mammograms necessary? She was suggesting Metformin and Clomid to help me get pregnant and progesta to regulate my cycle. I don’t see a lot of blog posts (from trusted people like Mommypotamus and Mama Natural) about these issues. Could it be a future post, Heather?
        I especially want information on this because I would like to become pregnant. I went to to this Ob-Gyn due to abnormal bleeding and she is offering to lead me along the path of pregnancy. Provided she does this with the least harm to my body (chemicals), I’m ok with this. In the end though, if I get pregnant, I’d like to have a home birth and I’m assuming the midwife/doula would take place of the Ob-Gyn, right? So I don’t know how far along I should go with my Ob-Gyn or if I should just stop going to her altogether until I become pregnant and seek a midwife/doula at that point. Anyone have suggestions, ideas, direction? Thanks so much!
        Long post! πŸ™‚
        I live in DFW, if that makes any difference.

  3. My husband and I are thinking about trying to get pregnant and we have no insurance. I’ve always thought it was fine since I wanted to have a midwife deliver my baby. But now I’ve been thinking about complications that could arise and wonder if we should try to get some kind just in case? Or for the postpartum care my the baby and I? Also, how does it work with check ups after you give birth? Do you do those?

    • Also, I wonder about lab costs and any other things that could arise during your pregnancy. Hopefully you would be low-risk and all would go well, but as I mentioned, sometimes unforeseen things happen, and I think certain lab tests are standard. Of course, if it’s just lab costs, even though they can be pricey, it’s probably cheaper than insurance. But when I think of all the things that could add up, I personally would prefer to have insurance – for you and for your baby.

      • Sorry, my posts are out of order. The one I posted below is my first one, and then I added this one but apparently goofed and posted in the wrong place!

  4. Personally, I would. Sometimes homebirth doesn’t work out for whatever reason and the woman/baby have to be transferred to the hospital during labor. You don’t hope for that to happen when you are planning a homebirth, of course, but it seems wise to prepare yourself for what that might look like, should it indeed happen. If you were to be transferred and everything goes swimmingly at the hospital, you’d still have hospital bills. If there is some complication and mother and/or baby need extra care, more hospital bills. And if you are like me and have a baby who is born with any type of birth “defect” (he wasn’t defective in our opinion, but I lack a better word at the moment) and requires surgery (right away, or months down the road as in our case), you would presumably want to have insurance. I realize insurance is expensive, and even with it, the costs for deductibles and such can be high, depending on the plan. But I think it would be problematic to incur all those costs without insurance. My little one was, indeed, born at home, and required surgery months later. Whiel raising a baby, it seems prudent to have insurance because you never know what type of injury a toddler might incur. That’s just my 2 cents; hopefully Heather and others will have more thoughts for you. πŸ™‚

  5. Well picking a midwife, yes I remember I had to do the same thing. We had our first two in NY state and had a wonderful midwife. Her name was Martha Roth, from Nyack, NY, if anyone needs one in NY or Conn area. Anyway, we moved three hours away to Southern NJ and she did move with me. Oh how sad I was to leave her more then anything else. Well got pregnant with #3 and started looking for a homebirth midwife. I did find one and after maybe 5 visits I released we really didn’t click and I was becoming more fearful of her coming to my house for the home visit and for the birth itself. Well, when we were early pregnant my husband and I met a lady who told us all about her 2 unassisted homebirths. My husband was like “Oh Yeah, we can do this!!”, me on the other hand was like “I need a woman with me.” Well when we decided to ditch the new midwife, we also looked each other in the face and decided we could do this as a couple and we did NEED a midwife after all. I read everything I could on it and we both prepared ourselves as much as we could before the big day came. And let me tell you it came regardless if a midwife was coming or not. πŸ™‚ It was the most freeing and beautiful experience I ever had. I loved all my births and had really good ones but this one surpassed the rest. I think it was because we hadtotally comtrol and were not looking to anyone else for what they thought. WE think that just the fact of the midwife or someone entering into the nest that is really not apart of the nest is intervention aswell. I know that is a bit extreme, but if you look realistically it is. If you think about it it is really getting back to nature and palieo as you get it. So many animals look to hid themselves from any an everything when they are going to give birth. As I did this time more then the others. Well I hope this helps add to your comments and your thought as you prepare for your three birth. We are actually pregnant with #4 and are greatly looking forward to doing it all over again. I have been so relieved to not have any intervention for the entire pregnancy this time. πŸ™‚

    Blessings to you all,

  6. awesome story Siobhan. Our friends just free birthed their 5th child. My Husband and I are considering the same should we add number 3. it is so rural here that I am doubtful a midwife would make it in time anyways. we of course would transfer ourselves to the hospital if needed and I have an ems rescue unit across the street.

    • Leah G. — That is so great you are considering a Free Birth. A wonderful book that really helped me get on board with my husband was “Unassisted Homebirth- An Act of Love” by : Lynn M. Griesemer. We were blessed by the many stories of Free birth. However, the only thing in the book that I didn’t really agree is for everyone is her view on the husband catching the baby. My husband would do it if needed or I really wanted him to, but he is ok that I really do the birthing on my own. He has been present for all three births, however, he didn’t catch them. I caught the second and third, my midwife aught the first. He cut the first two umbilical cords, but he wanted my son (4.5 yrs at the time) to cut it for our third. My son did it a little reluctantly but now is very proud that he did it. Well I hope you decide on the Freebirth if you feel lead to it. And if you have any questions, thoughts, or doubts on Freebirth you would be more then welcome to email me. [email protected]


  7. Thank you for this post, Heather! I will definitely be filing away this information for when my hubby and I start a family. I have learned so much in the past few months about becoming a mom, I feel so prepared for when that time does come. Thank you for taking the time to tell us how to choose a good midwife!


  8. I had a different midwife for both my births and I’m super thankful that they are covered here in B.C. Canada. I do however feel that because it’s part of the health care system that they have increased the regulations on midwifery and what is and what is not allowed in the practice. I think this can be a good thing, but I found that it was almost too regulated and that some of the traditional aspects of midwifery were not allowed to be practiced for the sake of covering any legal issues that could occur.

  9. I just found you and was going through some of your old posts that caught my attention and noticed you mentioned natural family planning as your birth control method. I’m planning on using the same method but I was wondering what metho you use during your fertile phase.

  10. I am going with a midwife and homebirth (Lord willing) for my first child…I’m 15 weeks…I’ve had a very easy healthy pregnancy thus far, praise God, and am looking forward to a homebirth. I attended part of a hospital birth, and was astounded at the lack of attention, the peer pressure from the nurse midwife and the other nurses for medications. I also want to go into labor naturally…and if it is 41w1d, that will not happen, because the medical field thinks induction at 41 weeks is perfectly natural and acceptable and will not let anyone go past 41 weeks. I do NOT want any of that if I can avoid it at all. I interviewed 3 midwives, the third one was the charm! Liscensed, 40 years experience, is very “wholistic” as far as family and her views on food and health! I LOVE my midwife and always look forward to my appointments. Anyone that has NOT looked into homebirths, I HIGHLY recommend it!

  11. I am currently pregnant with my first child. It’s important to find a midwife I feel comfortable with to help with the whole birthing process. Like you suggested, I’ll be sure to check out candidate’s websites to read their philosophy, services, and certification. Thanks for sharing!