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Home Birth in North America: Attitudes and Practice of US Certified Nurse-Midwives and Canadian Registered Midwives


  • Saraswathi Vedam CNM, RM, MSN,

  • Kathrin Stoll PhD, MA,

  • Laura Schummers BSc,

  • Judy Rogers RM, MA,

  • Lisa L. Paine CNM, DrPH

Address correspondence to Saraswathi Vedam, CNM, RM, MSN, B54-2194 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z3, Canada. E-mail:



Scope of practice, competencies, and philosophy of maternity practice are similar among midwives in the United States and Canada. However, there are marked differences in intrapartum practice sites between registered midwives (RMs) and certified nurse-midwives (CNMs).


This study linked data from 2 national surveys: 1) a 2007 survey of CNM members of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (n = 1893); and 2) the Canadian Birth Place Study of maternity providers, including RM members of the Canadian Association of Midwives (n = 451) to compare the demographics, practice experience, and attitudes to home birth between these 2 types of North American midwives. A Provider Attitudes To Planned Home Birth scale–international (PAPHB-i) was developed for this analysis. Descriptive and bivariate analyses are presented.


Educational exposure to planned home birth varied greatly when comparing CNMs and RMs, as did practice patterns regarding continuity of care, primary and gynecologic care, and involvement with research and teaching. Registered midwives were almost 4 times more likely than CNMs to have practiced in the home (99.1% vs 26.0%). Certified nurse-midwives scored significantly lower than RMs on the PAPHB-i scale (36.5 vs 41.0), indicating less favorable attitudes toward home birth overall. Certified nurse-midwives were less confident than RMs in their management skills for home birth practice. Age, exposure to planned home birth during midwifery education, and practice experience in the home setting emerged as significant covariates of attitudes toward home birth. Significantly more RMs and CNMs with home birth experience expressed concerns about disapproval of hospital-based peers, but they were significantly less likely to agree that midwives face other systemic barriers than CNMs with no home birth experience.


Differences in favorability toward and confidence with practice during planned home births among CNMs and RMs were predicted associated with differences in educational and practice exposure to planned home birth. We recommend that clinical experiences and theoretical content about planned home birth and preparation for multidisciplinary collaboration across settings be integrated as essential and required components of all health professional education programs.