In 1994, Heidi Fillmore, at the time a local midwife in a private practice, founded Birthwise. Originally, the midwifery program consisted of a small group of women meeting in a rented office in downtown Bridgton, Maine to learn about midwifery together.
These first students were apprentice midwives looking for a structured way to gain a theoretical knowledge of midwifery. The classes were casual and open, with students often discussing best midwifery practices in a circle on the office’s carpeted floor.
In 1998, Birthwise moved in to the Historic Samual Andrews House around the corner on South High Street. The move represented a huge shift in the potential of the school. Periodic renovations expanded the Birthwise facility alongside its expanding enrollment.
In 1998, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) also began developing an accreditation process for direct-entry midwifery schools. Their guidance added professional standards to the midwifery program at Birthwise.
MEAC pre-accredited Birthwise in 1999 and fully accredited the school in 2002 after our first students graduated from the accredited program. With accreditation under its belt, Birthwise became eligible to receive federal student aid in 2002. In 2004, the school achieved approval from SEVIS and began accepting international students.
In 2006, Birthwise opened The Birth House and the Birthwise Community Clinic on its campus. The Birth House is a student-led, free-standing birth center and home birth practice serving the region. The Birthwise Community Clinic also offers many free services to the Bridgton community including well body care, childbirth education classes, pre-conception care, and a support group for new parents.
To address the needs of students who could not relocate to Bridgton permanently during their schooling, Birthwise introduced the Community Program in 2008. The new program made a Birthwise education accessible to more people than ever.
In 2014, Birthwise celebrated its 20th anniversary with founder Heidi Fillmore still serving as Academic Director alongside a strong and expanded team of talented staff, faculty, and students.
Through these past decades, the Birthwise midwifery program has evolved into the comprehensive, three-year direct-entry program it is today. Students from all over the United States, Canada, and the world have come to Bridgton, Maine to study midwifery.