Interviewing a midwife can feel intimidating because you are questioning how + why somebody does their job.
But it’s one of the most important pieces of any pregnancy. You’re choosing the person or team who will be your cheerleader, advisor + confidant as you become a mom (or become a mom again!).
Your goal is to walk away from this meet and greet conversation with clarity and confidence in choosing your birth professional.
Here are my recommendations for having a smooth, honest + matter-of-fact conversation with the women who will intentionally be supporting you through the most transformative time of your life.
Let’s start with what you should be able to find in-advance:
These are questions that should be readily available by talking on the phone to the admin when you call to schedule the appointment, or pre-written on their website + social media. — Here are my
Are they licensed by the state?
There isn’t a “right” answer here. Some states, like Massachusetts, just don’t offer licensure for direct-entry midwives (CPMs). That doesn’t mean your care is in bad hands. If you feel comfortable working with a CPM — after all of your comparative research + questioning — go for it!
I lived in Kansas when I had my first baby + my CPM was licensed by the state because licensure was available.
For baby #2, my CPM won’t be licensed by the state because we’ve since moved to Massachusetts.
What you want to find — regardless of the answer at first — is that they’re forthcoming with *an* answer.
For example, since Massachusetts doesn’t offer licensure for CPMs, my midwife has it written clearly in her welcome letter available on her website.
If that information seems to be creatively hidden or avoided, then that might be a red flag.
What was their midwifery training + do they keep up with it?
What’s awesome about midwifery is that experience is the greatest teacher + midwives can get that experience in countless ways.
One of my midwives learned about midwifery from her mom’s homebirths before she continued on to a midwifery school.
Another midwife I know gained most of her practice experience from volunteering in rural villages in South America.
The important factor here is to find somebody who entered the field passionately with guidance from educated teachers + they continue growing + learning + staying open-minded to shifts in care.
What would disqualify me from a home birth under your care before birth?
Some midwives are happy to assist with multiples + breech births. Other midwives have a strict no-multiples, no-breech policy.
Some midwives fall in-between + judge on a case-by-case basis. You don’t know for sure unless you ask.
Even if their policy is explained on their website, some midwives may make exceptions based on the health of the mom.
For example, I was very fit + nutritionally-conscious going into my first pregnancy. I had studied birth early on + was priming my mind for birth well in-advance. My midwife observed that strong commitment early on and told me that while she usually says no to doing home births for breach births or multiples, that she would not let those be reasons for discontinuing my care. She had confidence that we would work well together should either of those circumstances present themselves.
So, this is definitely a question to ask in person. I never would have known that answer unless it came up situationally, but hearing how additionally confident my midwife was in me and my ability to birth this baby, was a huge confidence booster for me.
What’s your experience with issues that come up during birth?
Challenges like cord prolapse, shoulder dystocia, and postpartum hemorrhage can come up in births for women who have had the healthiest pregnancies. Again, you’re looking for a confident answer.
What’s your relationship to traditional medicine? What would happen in the event of a transfer?
When I asked my midwives this for Baby #2, I expected to hear that I would be transferred to the small city hospital 5 minutes down the street from my house.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they would preferred to transfer me and baby directly into the specialty private hospitals in Boston (about 40 minutes away).
And their reasoning was because transferring an otherwise healthy, low-risk woman + baby to a place that sees way crazier, complicated problems, was actually uninteresting to most of the staff + they respected the low-risk approach to birth. My midwives found that specialty hospitals would align more with the natural minded practices of midwifery than potentially the smaller town hospital that was bored + more likely to judge the home birth decision at the door.
I thought that was so interesting!
I had always assumed I would be transferred to the nearest hospital without question and assumed I would be at the mercy of whoever was on call.
But with smooth relationships between my midwives and the specialty staff in Boston, I’m confident that in the event of any unforeseen circumstances, I would still be respected and have continuity of care. That is HUGE!
Your midwives may obviously have a different approach to choosing a transfer hospital, but you want to know that your midwives will stay with you and help advocate your birth preferences in the event you do need an intervention.
Another fascinating bit from my midwives: since I had a successful home birth for Baby #1, she said my transfer expectation is literally less than 1% for Baby #2.
First births are traditionally longer because the body hasn’t been stretched yet, so there is potential for exhaustion + fear to mount to a point where there’s need for intervention.
But for second time home birthing moms, their body has done a lot of the work already and they have the experience of having known firsthand that they will get to the other side of labor and they know the victory in what lies ahead — a healthy, happy baby + a healthy, happy mom. That acts as momentum that pushes second-time moms through. So cool!
What equipment will they bring to the birth and what supplies should I have in my home?
This one is pretty straightforward.
Confirm what their ideas about due dates are.
Due dates really should be called due month. If you’re planning an organic pregnancy, you want a practitioner who has that same response.
You don’t want to be in the care of somebody who is going to make you feel rushed, you could actually end up stressing yourself out more and having unnecessary interventions.
It was nice to hear how my prospective midwives viewed my cycle insights specifically.
They insisted that they wouldn’t hold me to a hard due date, but that we would use that date to chart progress. As long as baby + I are still healthy, I wouldn’t be phased out of care if I carried for longer than 42 weeks.
How many births do you do in a month/year? How many have you done overall?
Knowing a providers level of experience is extremely helpful in building your confidence in them. But I strongly encourage you to not discount a new midwife based on her birth count alone. She may have other incredible experience to lend to your birth.
Note: Now would be a great time to mention if you would be open to having a student midwife observe your birth.
And as a former premedicine student, I really ask you to consider this!
You can ask that they be a fly on the wall, or not physically touch you, or are you variation of whatever will make you comfortable, but you have an opportunity to help someone become a well-rounded provider for your future births or someone else’s.
Might be nice!
What is their standard care model?
Most midwives are naturally-minded and opt for minimal testing + ultrasounds. For example, choosing to use tools like the fetoscope as opposed to the Doppler.
Who will be at my birth?
At my first birth, I had a single leading midwife who was 99% guaranteed to be at my birth (unless she had an emergency herself) plus an assistant I met in-advance.
At my second birth, I could have any mix of 3 midwives, who I will see a few times throughout my prenatal care so that I’m comfortable with them. Their student midwives are invited to join, too.
Whether your practitioners rotate based on availability or are guaranteed to be there for you, you’ll want to know this in-advance.
Can you walk me through the day of the birth?
- When do you show up?
- What’s your approach to labor support?
- What does the first hour after birth like?
- How does care continue after birth?
Where do you live?
This tells you the proximity of the midwives leaving in the middle of the night.
Do you have kids? How many?
I like knowing that a midwife has experienced birth before. There’s invaluable experience in that which I know transfers to me.
I continue with saying we have 3 dogs who were our babies before the human babies. And this opens the floor for a few questions —
Do you have pets? What kinds?
Funnily enough, when my one of second midwives said she had 2 pit bulls and the other said she had a boxer + chihuahua, I felt like I knew them instantly.
We have a Rottweiler/Boxer rescue, and there’s something unifying about rescue parents of high-needs breeds.
Think about where you feel camaraderie with other people. Where do you feel like you are a good judge of character?
I feel like I can tell a lot about a person based on their relationship to animals. It tells me their level of patience and nurturing and those are qualities I want translated into my birth.
With that, what’s your comfort-level with pets + kids being at or near the birth?
Our home is open-concept and mostly single-level, so the dogs will be visible + likely barking at them.
It doesn’t distract me from my work — I’m used to them — but if doggy daycare isn’t open in the middle of the night (like when I went into labor last time), those dogs will have to be in the house.
We need the midwives to feel safe + comfortable with animals.
Can you help me confirm my pregnancy + determine my due date?
You can take a medical grade pregnancy test and use their pregnancy charts to help hone in on a due date window.
Make sure you have your fertility app data available, with cycle insights such as length of ovulation, first day of your last period, etc. I use the Ovia app to track my fertility + keep that data.
With Baby #2, I am due anytime between December 25 and January 15.
Calculating that due date at the first appointment allowed us to quickly discuss comfort levels around my midwives being available during a holiday season.
We were able to joke that we might spend Christmas together or have reason to have champagne on New Year’s (okay, not for me, but still…) but it also gave me some confidence in seeing their faces giving me that response.
I could clearly see that they didn’t mind at all if they got called to a birth while their kids were on school vacation week.
What questions do you plan on asking your midwives? Any fun ones to add to this list?
I’d love to keep this list growing. Share in the comments below!