In 2019, Birthwise Midwifery School will celebrate 25 years of teaching the art and science of midwifery in Bridgton, Maine. This milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the history of the school and gauge just how far the program has come in the last quarter century:
Heidi Fillmore, at the time a local midwife in a private practice, founded Birthwise in late 1994. The midwifery program originally consisted of a small group of women who met in a rented office in downtown Bridgton 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.
A few months after classes began, the Sun Journal published an article about the midwifery program. In the article, the Sun Journal calls Birthwise “an innovative new training program for aspiring midwives.”
In 1998, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) 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 1998, Birthwise moved in to the Historic Samuel 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 2006, Birthwise opened the Birth House on campus. The Birth House is a student-led, free-standing birth center serving Maine and New Hampshire. Birthwise Midwifery Service, which has its home in the birth center, also offers free reproductive healthcare, like pap smears and breast exams, to the local community.
To address the needs of students who can’t relocate to Bridgton during their schooling, Birthwise introduced the community option for the midwifery program in 2008. The new option made a Birthwise education accessible to more people than ever.
Looking ahead to 25 years
In the last 25 years, Birthwise has evolved into a direct-entry midwifery program that is recognized for its excellence on
a national level. Today, students from all over the United States, Canada, and the world come to Bridgton to study the art and science of midwifery at Birthwise.
Birthwise kicked off its anniversary celebrations at the Midwives Association of North America (MANA) 2018 Conference on October 11-14 in Portland, Maine. During the conference, a 25th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration brought alumni, students, staff, and faculty together in celebration.