Birthwise’s new Midwifery Assistant (MA) program is a rigorous, MEAC-accredited, hands-on training program that prepares students to offer a holistic array of pregnancy-year services to birthing families, including but not limited to serving as a trained birth assistant in home or birth center birth settings. Birthwise’s MA program is an 16-month combination academic and clinical journey that offers students the chance to combine structured classroom learning in scenic Bridgton, Maine with clinical preceptorship training in their home communities.
Our certificate program includes in-class academic training. Students will travel to campus once every three months for 1-2 weeks of intensive classroom learning and skill development. While engaged in their academic year, students will also be working closely with a preceptor midwife (or midwives) of their choice as beginner birth assistants in their home communities.
Upon successful completion of the 16-month program, Midwifery Assistants will be trained to work in any of the following capacities:
- Midwife’s Assistant (prenatal and postpartum)
- Birth Assistant
- Labor/Birth Doula
- Postpartum Doula
- Placenta Encapsulation Specialist
- Lactation Support
- Childbirth Educator
- Belly Caster
- Birth Artist (placenta prints, dehydrated cord art)
- Fertility Awareness Educator
Additionally, MAs will acquire certification in both BLS for Healthcare Professionals and Neonatal Resuscitation.
In order to graduate and earn the MA certificate, students must meet the following educational requirements :
- Attendance at a minimum of 20 births (see FAQs for details)
- Attendance at a minimum of 15 prenatal visits
- Attendance at a minimum of 40 postpartum visits
- Signature verification of all birth, prenatal, and postpartum experiences by the student’s preceptor.
- Assistance with or observation of a minimum of 12 hours of childbirth education classes.
- Completion of 6 hours of shadowing with a lactation consultant and counselor.
- Teaching or co-teaching (at least 50%) an entire series of childbirth education classes.
- Passing grades in all classes and on all final exams and completion of all projects.
- Passing grades on OSATS (objective, structured assessment of technical skills) examinations.
- Payment of all outstanding tuition and fees.
- Completion of required paperwork for any challenged course credits.
Please read through our FAQs and then contact Abby Luca with any remaining questions.
Very much so. MAs are certified to serve women in many capacities throughout the childbearing year, including as fertility awareness educators, childbirth educators, belly casters, labor/birth doulas, postpartum doulas, placental encapsulation specialists, and lactation support personnel. They are also able to work as skilled assistants to certified out-of-hospital midwives in home and birth center birth. Unlike CPMs, however, MAs do not, under any circumstances, manage care for pregnant, laboring, or postpartum clients. They are not trained as midwives and are not qualified to take on their own clients or to make healthcare decisions for their supervising midwife’s clients. While supplemental offerings such as childbirth education may be offered freely to the public, an MA only works in an assistant capacity under the direct supervision of a midwife for all tasks related to pregnancy, labor/birth, and postpartum care.
There are many birth assistant training programs available, and many of them are 2-4 day weekend workshops. Unlike these introductory trainings, Birthwise Midwifery School’s MA course is a comprehensive certificate program that trains students through both extensive theoretical learning and hands-on skills practice and then oversees students during preceptorship training with a local midwife. All knowledge and skills competencies will be taught and evaluated for each student to assure competency before a student graduates. Students leave the program with “Birth Assistant” as one of myriad offerings, and they are prepared to serve women, in multiple capacities, throughout the childbearing year as a Midwifery Assistant.
We strongly suggest that applicants have previous birth experience so that they will be familiar with the world of maternity care and with the birth-worker lifestyle, but it is not a requirement. You are required to identify a potential preceptor, a midwife in your home community who will train you as a birth assistant, before starting the program. You will need to be working with a preceptor for at least 5 of the 6 quarters of the program, though you are not limited to just one preceptor.
We ask that all applicants identify a potential preceptor before the start of the program. You will be expected to begin your first Clinical Assistantship by the second session, so preceptors will be contracted during the first session of enrollment. This ensures that the skills you learn in class will be applied and developed while you’re in school, and it is vital to timely finishing of the program.
Class weeks run Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm, with occasional variation in schedule. Each week is a “session,” and each session is comprised of a combination of theoretical learning and clinical skill development. Students will have homework to complete before the start and after the finish of each session. Classes are based on the adult learning model and are generally a combination of lecture, discussion, activity, student presentation, and hands-on skill development.
Expect to spend around 10 hours a week on homework between sessions, though this may vary greatly from student to student. Homework can include, but is not limited to, reading, journaling, take-home tests, skill development, project/presentation preparation, and creation of handouts and other documents.
It is the student’s responsibility to secure lodging for each of the six sessions, although Birthwise can assist you in finding an appropriate option. There are many seasonal rental properties in the area, and some faculty and staff rent rooms. Your cohort will be connected via email and Facebook before the start of class, so you might think about staying together when you’re here.
Meals are not included, but there is a large kitchen where you will be able to prepare food with your classmates every day. There are a couple of large local markets, and depending on the season, there may also be farmer’s markets open.
As a participant in the program, expect the following additional expenses:
- Room and board while in Bridgton.
- Travel expenses to and from Bridgton seven times over the course of the program.
- A student kit, ordered from Everything Birth before the start of school: $90.95
- Books. The reading list is under construction, but it should be less than $500 for the entire program and books may be ordered used.
- Labor/Birth Doula workshop: $375* (approx.)
- Postpartum Doula Workshop: $375* (approx.)
- Placental Encapsulation Equipment: $60-$100 (approx. if bought new)
- Fees for challenging credits and achieving Advanced Status: Varies
- Costs associated with clinical experiences: Varies (examples: cell phone, pager, gas)
- Computer: Varies
*Students who have already taken approved doula workshops or who would prefer to take the workshops in their home states should provide proof of completion to waive this requirement.
In order to become certified as a MA, you must attend a minimum of 20 births. You must serve as a birth assistant under the supervision of a midwife at a minimum 15 of these births, and up to 5 may be planned hospital births during which you served as a doula. Of your 15 assist births, up to 3 can be transports as long as you continued care at the hospital as a doula and were physically present for the birth.
In order to become certified as a MA, you must attend a minimum of 15 prenatal visits and 40 postpartum visits under the supervision of your preceptor. Attendance at visits is vital as it allows you to more fully develop many of the skills that will be important to your work as a birth assistant such as belly palpation, listening to fetal heart tones, and measuring vitals. It also gives you training with logistical aspects of care such as charting, appointment scheduling, third party reimbursement and labwork.
In the MA program, your teachers will be a combination of Certified Professional Midwives, Midwifery Assistants, and trained instructors (as with doula and lactation counseling classes).
Yes! For students enrolled in the Birthwise Midwifery program, many of your courses will transfer to the Midwifery Assistant program. While some of the program’s courses are geared specifically toward MAs, many courses taken at an accredited midwifery school may transfer easily, allowing you to complete the program more quickly. For students transferring to the program from midwifery programs other than Birthwise Midwifery School, a maximum of 50% of academic credits can challenged. Transferability of credits will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Possibly. Some of the smaller or more peripheral courses that we offer in the MA program (Fertility Awareness, Placental Encapsulation, etc.) will transfer because they are the same as (or more extensive than) the comparable courses from midwifery school. Core courses such as Normal Pregnancy, Assisting with Normal and Complicated Birth, etc. do not transfer and will need to be taken as part of the midwifery training program. Acceptance to the MA program does not guarantee acceptance into the midwifery program, and an MA student interested in transfer would need to go through the traditional application process in order to be considered for the midwifery program.
Your MA certificate will allow you to be self-employed in several different capacities. You can offer individual services to people birthing in all settings, including preconception and childbirth education, doula work, placental encapsulation, and belly casting, or you can offer these together in packages. Additionally, you will be able to work with local midwives or midwifery practices as an assistant. This will look different depending on the needs of the practice that you’re working with, but it can include assisting with prenatal and postpartum visits as well as assisting midwives with birth. It all depends on your interests and the needs of the practice or practices near you.
*As an MA, you are not a midwife, so you will not be able to take on your own clients for midwifery care, and every aspect of care that you provide should be supervised by a practicing midwife.
Yes, depending on where that student is in her training. While a student midwife works to develop all of the skills necessary to give care and to make and carry out management plans and is ultimately working toward a credential that will allow her to be a primary care provider, a midwifery assistant has a defined and limited scope within which she works. That scope is determined by her training, by her agreement with her supervising midwife, and in some places by the laws in her state. A midwifery assistant is not working towards proficiency in all of the skills needed to be an out-of-hospital maternity care provider; she is developing and sharpening all of the skills needed to become a capable second set of hands at a birth.
A birth assistant is a trained and highly capable second set of hands for an out-of-hospital midwife. They provide comfort and support to laboring women; they perform clinical tasks, such as checking blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and fetal monitoring under a midwife’s supervision; and they are trained to assist in both maternal and neonatal emergency scenarios. Birth assistants may also take on logistical, housekeeping, or administrative tasks within a midwifery practice—everything depends on the services that the assist offers and the agreement between the assist and their supervising midwife.
What you can charge for each of the services that you offer will vary greatly based on where you live. For things like childbirth education and placental encapsulation, check with other services in your local area to get a sense of the going rate for those services. For birth assisting, you will need to come to an agreement with the midwives you will be assisting.