Certified Nurse Midwife vs. Certified Professional Midwife: Which Path Fits You?

Pregnancy and Postpartum Care for Everyone

Becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) are two prominent options for those interested in providing care, support, and guidance to individuals and families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Here we explore explore the distinctions and similarities between CNMs and CPMs to help aspiring midwives choose the path that best fits their career aspirations and the needs of the communities they aim to serve.


FeatureCertified Nurse Midwife (CNM)Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)
Educational BackgroundRequires a nursing background (Registered Nurse) followed by a graduate-level degree in nurse-midwifery.Does not require a nursing background. Education can include apprenticeships, self-study, and formal education through midwifery programs.
CertificationMust pass a national certification examination by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).Must meet standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) and pass the NARM Written Examination.
Scope of PracticeBroad scope including pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum period, general women’s health care, and family planning.Focused primarily on pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, especially in out-of-hospital settings.
Clinical SettingCan practice in hospitals, private practices, birth centers, and homes. Have hospital privileges for certain medical interventions.Primarily focus on out-of-hospital births in homes or independent birth centers.
Ideal ForThose with a nursing background or those interested in a broad scope of practice including potential hospital-based interventions.Those interested in supporting natural births in home or birth center environments, focusing on low-risk pregnancies.


Despite their differences, CNMs and CPMs share several core similarities. Both aim to support and empower individuals through the natural birthing process, advocating for minimal intervention and providing personalized care. They focus on educating parents about childbirth and parenting, support breastfeeding, and strive to establish a trusting relationship with their clients. Both CNMs and CPMs are dedicated to improving maternal and infant health outcomes through evidence-based practices.

Which Path Fits Different People's Needs?

The choice between becoming a CNM or CPM depends on one's career goals, educational background, and the type of practice they envision for themselves.

  • Aspiring midwives with a nursing background or those interested in a broad scope of practice, including hospital privileges, might prefer the CNM path. This route offers more opportunities for professional advancement and the flexibility to work in diverse settings.
  • Those drawn to supporting natural births in home or birth center environments may find the CPM route more aligned with their passions. This path is ideal for individuals who value a direct-entry approach to midwifery, focusing on low-risk pregnancies and personalized care outside the hospital setting.

In conclusion, both CNMs and CPMs play vital roles in the healthcare system, offering choices to parents and contributing to safe and positive birthing experiences. By understanding the differences and similarities between these paths, aspiring midwives can make informed decisions about their careers, ensuring they find the right fit for their professional aspirations and the needs of the communities they wish to serve.