How to Become a Certified Professional Midwife

Any person who aspires to become a licensed midwife in Illinois has to attend a MEAC accredited school or have obtained certification through NARM at least 3 years prior to when the Rules and Regulations pass in the state.

The Midwifery Education Accreditation Council, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, is the accrediting body for direct-entry midwifery educational programs through brick and mortar schools.

Learn more at meacschools.org

The North American Registry of Midwives offers Licensed Midwifery certification upon passing a credentialing exam.

The CPM credential was developed in the late 1980’s and was first issued in 1994 by NARM to midwives with specialized training and expertise in providing safe, skilled maternity care in community birth settings. 

Learn more at narm.org

Thanks to House Bill 3401 Illinois became the 37th State to licensure Certified Professional Midwives! Though Midwifery is now legal in Illinois the bill it hasn’t yet passed the final stages that are required for it to be enacted.

Learn more about HB 3401 and it’s progress here.

FAQs

Because licensed midwifery is “direct-entry,” you do not have to be a nurse, other healthcare provider, or have a degree to start midwifery school.

In order to be eligible to be enrolled in a MEAC approved school, students must have a high school diploma (or equivalency certificate), college level English, college level mathematics, and be at least 21 years old.

All MEAC approved schools are at least two years in duration. They vary in the numbers of credits, courses offered, and if the school is online or in person. Note that all Florida approved schools must be at least three years.

There are currently no MEAC accredited schools in IL. The only MEAC school in the Midwest is Southwest Tech in Wisconsin. Many schools do offer distance learning for some portions of the coursework. 

Learn more about Southwest Tech here:
https://www.swtc.edu/academics/programs/health-occupations/midwife

You can find a complete list of MEAC schools here:
https://www.meacschools.org/midwifery-schools/

Most CPMs own or work in private home or birth center based practices throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Providing continuous care for women throughout their childbearing cycle, CPMs generally carry a relatively low client load (averaging 3-6 births per month) which allows for more personalized and comprehensive care than typical obstetrical practices. The scope of practice of the CPM is derived from the NARM Job Analysis, state laws and regulations, and individual practice guidelines developed by each midwife according to her skills and knowledge.

The guiding principles of the practice of CPMs are to work with their clients to promote a healthy pregnancy and provide education to help them make informed decisions about their own care. In partnership with their clients CPMs carefully monitor the progress of the pregnancy, labor, birth, newborn, and postpartum period. They recommend appropriate management if complications arise, collaborating with other healthcare providers when necessary. The key elements of this education, monitoring, and decision making process are based on evidence-based practice which includes thoughtful integration of the best available evidence, coupled with clinical expertise, and the client’s values and needs. As such it enables midwives and their clients to address healthcare questions with an evaluative and qualitative approach. Evidence based decisions flow from a process that includes the assessment of current and past research, clinical expertise, and other information resources in order to determine the best course of care. Evidence-based practice and informed consent refers to the rights of healthcare consumers to be fully informed about testing or treatment options so that they can then make an educated choice among those options.

CPMs can practice in community birth settings, like homes and birth centers and provide prenatal care only to low-risk people in office settings.

How to Become a CPM In Illinois

In 2021 Illinois became the 37th State to licensure Certified Professional Midwives via House Bill 3401! The law is referred to as the “Licensed Certified Professional Midwifery Practice Act” (225 ILCS64/).

The Licensed CPM Practice Act creates a path toward certification for midwives by allowing licensed professional midwives to attend out-of-hospital births in home and birth center settings. Though Midwifery is now legal in Illinois the bill it hasn’t yet passed the final stages via Rules and Regulations that are required for it to be enacted.

All midwives who apply for licensure beginning one year after rules are adopted will be required to have MEAC education completed, in addition to receiving their CPM through NARM.

For the one-year period after rules are complete only, CPMs who do NOT have MEAC education will also be able to apply, under the following conditions:

  • They will need to have held their CPM for at least 3 years at the time of application,
  • They will need to have completed the NARM Bridge Certificate at the time of application.

The Licensed Certified Professional Midwifery Practice Act was given an effective date of October 1, 2022, meaning this is the first date on which the law became active in Illinois.

The specific date CPMs can get licensed and start practicing depends on when the Rules for the Licensed Certified Professional Midwifery Act are adopted. We are estimating some time in 2024, give or take a year. The state does not consider any midwife to be practicing “legally” unless they have a license or qualify for one of the exemptions.

These rules include the establishment of procedures and requirements for licensure, license renewals, continuing education, restoration of licenses, and recordkeeping. They define the scope of duties and requirements for midwife assistants; establish the standards for determining rehabilitation; establish application, renewal, and other fees; and create procedures and requirements for reporting adverse occurrences. These rules would also define dishonorable, unethical, or unprofessional conduct; while creating the procedure for the granting of variances.

We recommend all midwifery students explore options for enrolling in a MEAC school. Students who are near the end of their apprenticeship/preparing to sit the NARM exam could consider using the CPM Portfolio Evaluation Process (PEP) to MEAC bridge programs offered by some schools.

For current CPMs, there are several MEAC schools offering a program that allows current CPMs to receive credit for their CPM certification, and take a shorter course of study without repeating the entire apprenticeship/clinical process.

Note there are no MEAC schools in IL. The only MEAC school in the Midwest is Southwest Tech in Wisconsin. 

You can find a complete list of MEAC schools here: https://www.meacschools.org/midwifery-schools/compare/

In 2021 Illinois became the 37th State to licensure Certified Professional Midwives via House Bill 3401!

HB 3401 creates a path toward certification for midwives by allowing licensed professional midwives to attend out-of-hospital births. The proposal passed the Illinois legislature after the state’s main doctor’s organization, the Illinois State Medical Society, lifted its opposition, citing provisions that protect doctors and medical facilities from liability.

The Department or Agency which administers an act (in this case, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation) present proposed Rules to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR), and rules will go through a public comment stage, and revisions, before JCAR approves and adopts the final rules. This process, according to JCAR can take 90 days to a year, but practice acts and major legislation often takes more than a year from the law’s effective date (Oct 1, 2022).

The second draft of the rules can be found here.

The JCAR website provides information on who members are, how you can be involved in the rules process through public comment, and links for the Flinn report (summary of JCAR action), the Illinois Register (complete text of rules that are proposed or adopted), and Agendas and Minutes for upcoming meetings. There is no way to subscribe or automatically receive updates from these items, so you’ll need to keep checking back for updates.

https://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/

See the full text of the “Licensed Certified Professional Midwifery Practice Act” (225 ILCS64/ on the Illinois General Assembly website by clicking here.

The bill as written became statute when the governor signed it on Dec. 14, 2021. There is not a way to make changes or amendments to it at this time. To make changes in the future would require filing another bill, or, waiting until the sunset review (for this bill, the next will be in 2027) when legislators have the opportunity to review, revise, and renew practice acts. The rules process cannot be used to go against or remove what is written in statute/law.

This law specifically exempts some traditional midwives from licensure. We cannot advise you on whether or not a specific midwife or circumstances would be exempted.

Section 25; Exemptions
(b) Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit or require licensing under this Act with regard to:
(1) a traditional birth attendant practicing midwifery without a license if the traditional birth attendant has cultural, indigenous, or religious traditions that have historically included the attendance of traditional birth attendants at births and that birth attendant serves only the women and families in that distinct cultural, indigenous, or religious group;

Prior to this law, the ONLY midwives legally allowed to attend any birth, by statute, by court ruling, and by IDFPR regulation, were CNMs. ALL other midwives were at risk of cease and desist orders and fines, and prosecution.

Pathways to Out-of-Hospital Midwifery

Accredited school

Cost: $2,000 – $90,000
Time: 2-6 years

Only a handful of brick and mortal schools are certified by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC), which is the standard the nation is heading towards. Students then sit for the National Exam from the North American Registry of Midwives. Passing this exam earns a degree in Midwifery and the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential. 

NARM requires additional education for non MEAC schools in the form of a bridge program in order to receive the NARM Bridge Certificate.

PEP

Cost: $2,268
​Time: Minimum 2 years 

The Portfolio Evaluation Process (PEP) a self study program coupled with an apprenticeship model with a qualified preceptor. Upon completion of requirements the training midwife sits for the National Exam from the North American Registry of Midwives. Passing this exam earns a degree in Midwifery and the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) credential. 

Certified Nurse Midwife

Cost: $20,000-$60,000
​Time: 6-7 years

CNM is the route where one gains a degree in nursing and then a degree in midwifery through an accredited college. CNMs can practice in both hospital and out of hospital settings.

Sources:
BABES – Birthing a Business Education Services: https://www.betterbirthbusiness.com/midwifery-paths.html
ICCPM – Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives: https://www.illinoismidwives.com/students