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Important Terminology

Midwifery is divided up in to four basic categories:


A nurse midwife is typically categorized as someone familiar with both nursing and midwifery, most often referring to a registered nurse with additional training as a midwife.

Lay Midwives:

Lay midwives are largely middle class women who themselves had given birth, and desired to take birth out of the hospital. They were not registered nurses, and typically did not have formal training. They sometimes referred to themselves as community midwives as they served their communities for a low cost.

Direct-Entry Midwives:

Direct-Entry Midwives are a type of lay midwife who has no nursing certification. Today, most direct-entry midwives have received formal midwifery training and therefore enter directly into the profession without additional certification.

Granny Midwives:

A Granny midwives, a subset of the lay midwife, referring specifically to the old African-American women that assisted in childbirth. These women typically began their midwifery affiliation accompanying Black women on plantations, and later in rural areas. Granny midwives had deep ties to the communities they served, and were usually related in some way to the families they attended.


Other helpful terms:

Malpractice Insurance:

Like other health professions, midwives are required to take out malpractice insurance in order to protect themselves against lawsuits. However, the price of such insurance is high, and unlike most hospitals, midwifery does not generate the same amount of income. Because of this, midwives often have to charge hefty out of pocket fees for service. 

Free-Standing Birth Center:

A free-standing birth center is a health care facility for childbirth (and often well-woman care) that employs midwives and is freestanding and not in a hospital.