Dimensions of Being a Midwife and Midwifery Practice in the United States: A Qualitative Analysis

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BACKGROUND: Midwives are a vital component of addressing maternal mortality crisis in the United States (US); however, there is scant understanding of the elements of midwifery practice that affect patient outcomes and the stability of the midwifery workforce in the country. This study investigates US midwives’ perceptions of factors influencing their practice and willingness to stay in the profession. METHODS: We applied a pragmatic qualitative design using summative content analysis techniques to code 1,035 comments from a national sample of 2,887 certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives. Two coders identified categories and themes of midwives’ perceptions of their practice environments, which were confirmed by an independent auditor. RESULTS: Eight themes emerged from the data: I love midwifery but…; feeling valued and respected…or not; workload; time and its consequences; the multilevel geography of midwifery practice; changes at odds with quality midwifery care; midwives withdrawing from practice to cope; and the ambiguity of “I just want to practice like a midwife.” CONCLUSION: Midwives readily identified aspects of their practice environment that negatively impact quality of care and stability of the midwifery workforce, including not valuing midwives, high workload, regulatory restrictions, and moral distress; however, respondents expressed strong commitment to the profession of midwifery. The findings also demonstrated the lack of a universally accepted definition of midwifery care within respondents’ professional communities and among respondents. Initiatives to increase integration of midwifery into the US perinatal health system will benefit from taking these findings into consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Childbirth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • maternity
  • midwife
  • practice environment
  • qualitative
  • workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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