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CPM vs. CNM: What's the Difference?

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 2 views

Whether you are interested in hiring a midwife for the delivery of your child or considering becoming a midwife, it’s important to know the difference between the various kinds of midwives.

The difference between a certified professional midwife and a certified nurse midwife is by degrees—as in, college degrees. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) has a bachelor’s degree and is a registered nurse, most often with also a master’s degree.

“We can practice in multiple settings,” explained Cathy Collins-Fulea, MSN, CNM, FACNM, and vice-president for Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit, Michigan. “We can work in hospitals and in close collaboration with physicians.” She said that if a woman develops a complication such as chronic hypertension or diabetes, it can be co-managed with a physician.

Ms. Collins-Fulea also said that Certified Nurse Midwives provide care throughout womanhood—from puberty through menopause—as well as during pregnancy and labor. “We don’t focus only on birth and that’s a significant difference,” she said.

Certified Professional Midwives work with pregnant women from prenatal care to postpartum, with an emphasis on labor and delivery.

The American College of Nurse Midwives provides a very detailed chart at outlining the differences and similarities between Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives. The ACNM is the professional organization of CNMs, whereas the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives,, and the Midwives Alliance of North America,, is for CPMs. In addition, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council creates standards for midwifery education.

“The easiest way to understand the difference is that a Certified Professional Midwife is not necessarily a nurse,” said Maria Lorillo, a licensed midwife in California and a CPM,

What the two have in common is that they do have certification so that their background and education can be verified. Certified Nurse Midwives are licensed in all states, according to Ms. Collins-Fulea, and they attend eight percent of the births in the United States.

Certified Professional Midwives can attend a midwifery school and do an apprenticeship, but do not necessarily need an advanced degree. Licensure and certification is important for midwives, Ms. Lorillo said. “I feel that this is in place for the protection of the consumer,” she said. “Understanding that your practitioner has gone through a minimal amount of training to get licenses, passed a board exam, and is deemed as safe practitioner.”

For expecting parents looking for a midwife, Ms. Lorillo said that people need to ask what matters to them. “Everybody needs to choose a practitioner carefully,” she said.

One challenge is that CPM’s are legal in 26 states, CNM’s are legal in every state and another category of Certified Midwives are only legal in six states.

“Midwifery is still evolving,” Ms. Lorillo said. “Put yourself 30 years down the road: would you go to an unlicensed doctor? You wouldn’t go have surgery with an unlicensed doctor—it’s a no-brainer.”

Sarah Kraft, Co-Founder & President/CEO of Midwife International, has 14-years of combined experience in leadership-training, public relations and business development with a focus on women’s empowerment and maternal health. Sarah is also the co-founder of Organic Spa Box ( and founder of Rhythm of Life Consulting (, where she designs internet marketing strategies for businesses that are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of women. Prior to that, Sarah was the founder and publisher of Mindful Mama Magazine, where she built an audience of 10,000+ readers in 9-months; the Development Director of Mother’s Acting Up, where she supported women’s advocacy through the arts; and a Program Manager at the YWCA of Boulder County, where she personally mentored and trained over 100 girls in media technology and journalism. Sarah has a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder and is also a Certified Yoga Instructor. 

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