Most pregnant women are at a low risk for complications during childbirth: for them, a birth is not a cause of medical intervention. For such women, there’s an alternative to relying solely on an obstetrician: the certified nurse-midwife. Midwifery, the art of assisting at childbirth, is an ancient practice that has seen a revival. Qualified nurse-midwives (they may be women or men) are always registered nurses and must have advanced training in midwifery as well. They work as colleagues of an obstetrician and offer up-to-date prenatal care as well as attended childbirth in a relaxed setting that will appeal to many prospective mothers and fathers. In addition, because nurse-midwives use fewer hospital facilities and make less money than doctors, their bills will run 30 – 40% less than standard obstetrical care.

About 85% of nurse-midwives currently practice in hospitals and 11% in independent birthing centers, with ready and quick access to nearby hospitals should an emergency arise. In either setting, nurse-midwives usually work in birthing rooms, which are combined labor and delivery rooms that make moving from one room to another unnecessary. A nurse-midwife stays at the mother’s side during labor and may encourage the mother to walk around, sit, stand, curl up, or otherwise make herself comfortable. The rooms are usually furnished to create a pleasant, homelike atmosphere, and familuy members are usually encouraged to be present. If labor proceeds normally, the woman may be able to avoid electronic fetal monitoring and other high-tech procedures, as well as anesthesia.

Nurse-midwives are licensed by state boards of nursing or medicine; many states require certification by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.