Do you know how a midwife can help you?


In this article:

  • Midwives offer expert and comprehensive care that addresses each person’s unique health care needs and diverse cultural and spiritual beliefs.

  • The Swedish midwifery clinics are staffed by certified nurse midwives who hold nursing degrees and master’s degrees in midwifery.

  • Depending on your health history and conditions, a midwife may be the right provider for your pregnancy and postpartum care.

Preparing for childbirth brings an intense mix of feelings — excitement, joy, fear, and uncertainty are a few. Midwives, who are certified health care providers, offer uniquely personalized care that is attentive to the circumstances of their patients’ lives, as well as their cultural and spiritual beliefs.

At the heart of midwifery is a commitment to listening to patients, understanding their hopes and desires, and then providing current, evidence-based information that helps them make informed and empowered decisions about their health and the health of their families.

“While we provide care based on national standards, we understand that there are a lot of nuances in how patients make decisions,” says Brenda A. Bednar, a CNM at Swedish Midwifery Ballard. “Many of us have additional training in breastfeeding, trauma-informed care, gender-affirming care, gynecological procedures, surgical assisting, and naturopathy. That means we are prepared to walk patients through many different decision-making processes.

“Swedish supports midwives in our mission by maintaining a clinic structure that gives us twice the amount of time with patients in prenatal visits,” Brenda says. “And thanks to Swedish, we are at their bedside as much as possible during labor and delivery. 

“We see pregnancy and birth as a normal process,” Brenda continues. “We have lots of tools if the process leaves the realm of normal, but we are ready and excited to support physiologic birth.”  

What is a midwife?

Midwives are trained to provide obstetric and gynecological (OB/GYN) services. They offer primary care, prenatal and obstetric care, as well as routine gynecological care like annual exams and contraception. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs), like those who work at the Midwifery and Women's Health clinics at Swedish First Hill, Ballard, and Issaquah, are nurse practitioners and experts in OB/GYN care.

Many people choose midwives because midwives empower families with person-centered care that respects and is inclusive of diverse histories, backgrounds, and identities. Midwives also advocate for informed choice, shared decision-making, and each patient’s right to self-determination.

Some patients work exclusively with a midwife throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Other times patients want a midwife to work alongside their OB/GYN as an advocate who can ensure they get the care they want and need. In situations where pregnancy becomes complicated or high-risk, your midwife can refer you to an OB/GYN.

Midwives can also provide primary care for patients beginning in adolescence and throughout their life, as well as care for healthy newborns during the first 28 days of life. The Midwifery and Women's Health clinics at Swedish First Hill, Swedish Ballard, and Swedish Issaquah provide comprehensive women’s health care, including annual exams, birth-control counseling, menopausal care, and primary care.

Certified nurse midwives, certified midwives and doulas

Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) have completed nursing school and have either a master’s degree or a doctorate in midwifery. They provide reproductive care and pregnancy care, and they can deliver babies. They are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and can prescribe medications, diagnose conditions, and order lab tests. CNMs work in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.

Like CNMs, certified midwives (CMs) are licensed, independent health care providers with a master’s degree in midwifery — but they did not attend nursing school and are not nurses. They can prescribe medications, but only a few states issue licenses for CMS.

Doulas are another person who can help with labor and birth. But doulas do not have medical training, and they are not licensed. A doula can provide comfort during labor and delivery by helping mothers manage contractions and suggesting labor positions. 

All midwives at Swedish are certified nurse-midwives. We also offer doula services through our doula program.

How midwives work with OB/GYNs at Swedish

In addition to practicing obstetrics, OB/GYNs are surgeons and gynecologists. This means their time, interest and expertise are in treating women with complex and high-risk issues. Nurse-midwives focus on caring for healthy women in pregnancy and birth, providing a holistic approach to healthy pregnancies and preparing women for a satisfying birth experience.

“When a patient is high-risk, we refer them to our OB/GYN colleagues,” says Brenda. “We can also help OB/GYNs with deliveries and train residents when the OB/GYNs are working in the operating room or attending other deliveries.  

“A midwife is a good option for women who have a low-risk, routine pregnancy and desire a more personalized relationship with your provider,” Brenda concludes.

If you have a complex health condition but still want to work with a midwife, they can collaborate with your obstetrician. These conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Expecting twins or multiples
  • High blood pressure
  • History of seizures
  • Previous high-risk pregnancies

If you are planning on a cesarean, or your providers determine that you need one during delivery, your on-call nurse-midwife will assist the obstetrician with the surgery. Swedish consulting physicians are available 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies and questions and to perform surgery.

Swedish midwives provide award-winning, comprehensive women’s health care

At Swedish, our midwives do more than deliver babies and help moms prepare for motherhood. As certified nurse-midwives, they provide comprehensive women’s health care, including annual exams, birth-control counseling, menopausal care, and primary care. 

The full scope of nurse-midwifery services includes:

  • Breastfeeding support
  • Childbirth
  • Follow-up appointments
  • Physical exams
  • Preconception care
  • Prenatal screening and care
  • Teen pregnancy care
  • Ultrasound referrals
  • VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)

For their outstanding work with expectant mothers, Swedish midwives have received the American College of Nurse-Midwives Triple Aim Achievement Award for a low C-section rate, a low preterm birth rate, and a high breastfeeding rate.

The JUST Birth Network

We know our community includes people from a wide variety of cultures and we are committed to addressing inequities that impact the health and well-being of families. The Justice Unity Support Trust (JUST) Birth Network is a program designed to provide an umbrella of services for Black/African American and Native patients. 

The JUST Birth Network connects patients to doulas who are attentive to the cultural and spiritual beliefs of our diverse population and ensures that all Swedish Birth and Family Education programs include culturally relevant childbirth education through the Swedish Birth and Family Education program.

Work with expert midwives at Swedish

“Many people should consider midwifery care,” says Brenda. “We see people who believe they are too at-risk for our care because they are over 40, have had in vitro fertilization, had a cesarian, or have other complications. But midwives may be the right choice for many of these patients because we have more time to spend with them, and if complications arise, our OB/GYN colleagues are always close by.”

Every pregnancy, like every family and every baby, is unique. And the Swedish midwives are prepared to help you experience the best possible birth for you and your child.


Learn more and find a provider

If you have questions about midwifery, contact one of the midwifery clinics at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual appointments.

With Swedish Virtual Care, you can connect face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your family and health history. To find a provider, try searching our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Related resources

Meet the 2022 Swedish Doula Diversity Scholarship recipients

TeamBirth initiative launches at Swedish First Hill

Celebrating, supporting all mothers’ breastfeeding journeys

Swedish launches first-ever hospital-based postpartum doula services


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

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About the Author

There's a reason why more babies are born at Swedish every year than any other health system in western Washington - bringing babies into this world is our mission. The Swedish Pregnancy & Childbirth Team is committed to giving you relevant and actionable insights on how to care for yourself and your child as you navigate the trimesters of your pregnancy.

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