What is the difference between Midwife, CNM, OBGYN & Family Doctor?

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, with NO additional cost to you. 


For in depth reading on midwife history and natural birth check out Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This is a brief summary of different childbirth providers. 


Midwives specialize in normal pregnancy and birth. Individualized care, focusing on minimizing use of obstetrical intervention. Midwifery is associated with fewer episiotomies, forceps and vacuum-extractor deliveries, epidurals, and cesarean sections. They are trained to identify the small percentage of births which complications develop and refer these women to obstetricians. There are several types of midwives:


  • Certified nurse midwives (CNM) - These are registered nurses who have completed additional postgraduate training at an accredited institution by the American College of Nurse - Midwives (ACNM). 

  • Direct entry - Any midwife who did not become a registered nurse in the midwife training process. 

    • Certified professional Midwife- certified by the North American Registry of Midwives 

    • Certified Midwives - certified by the ACC (credentialing arm of ACNM)

    • Licensed Midwives - licensed by the state to practice. 

  • Lay Midwife - a midwife who learned through apprenticeship and not formal schooling. This does NOT mean UNTRAINED. 


Family doctors most prevalent in rural areas. May not have surgical privileges and refer to an obstetrician if c-section is necessary. Tend to have lower rates of intervention than obstetricians


Obstetricians (OBGYN) doctors who specialize in obstetrics. They are trained on detecting and treating the pathological problems of pregnancy, labor and birth. They are surgeons and can perform cesarean sections, forceps and vacuum-extractor birth. They outnumber family doctors and midwives in north American due to the past dominance over the other two professions. They design most hospital maternity rules and routines. 


Home births are usually attended by some kind of direct entry or lay midwife. Birth centers have all kinds of midwives, depending on the state regulations. CNM’s are usually found within hospital settings. Family doctors and obstetricians work within hospitals. 


Depending on where you live will often determine who is available to you as a provider. As with any provider, interview them before you commit to them in pregnancy.  It will make a huge difference in your pregnancy. 

For more on a Health Natural Pregnancy I have a whole course with all the details.  https://getoiling.com/CassandraRow/landing/naturally-healthy-birth

Wanting a community to lean into? Join the FREE Courageous + Purposeful Mommas group! This community is for the Mommas, mommas to be, in the midst of raising, and kids grown, looking for tips on building your family up and providing for them through natural methods. Tips include: gardening, bulk buying, caning,/preserving, livestock, homesteading, and home remedies. Your family is precious, and this group is to help you gain the knowledge and tools to keep your family well and not reliant on outside professionals. Remedies and tips are easy and simple for the busy momma, time is precious after all, including pregnancy, birth, young kids, and illness. Trust your Momma gut again! This community offers the resources + community you need to help get started on your journey and prepare for whatever future you envision.

Join the Free Community


Click here to get the stories straight to your email:

Sign up for the Blog


For more on wellness tips click here:

Sign up for Wellness tips


For more on homesteading on your budget click here:

Sign up for Homesteading Tips


For more simple DIY updates click here:

Sign up for easy DIYs 


Leave a Comment