|Midwifery is the term traditionally used to describe the practice of assisting a woman through childbirth. In the modern context, this term is used to describe the activities of those health care providers who are experts in women's health care including giving prenatal care to expecting mothers. They attend the birth of the infant and provide postpartum care to the mother and her infant. Practitioners of midwifery are known as midwives, a term used in reference to both women and men (the term means "with woman").
Midwives are autonomous practitioners who are specialists in normal pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum. They generally strive to help women have a healthy pregnancy and natural birth experience. Midwives are also primary care givers providing general women's health care. Midwives are trained to recognize and deal with deviations from the norm. Obstetricians, in contrast, are specialists in illness related to childbearing and in surgery. The two professions can be complementary, but often are at odds because obstetricians are taught to "actively manage" labor, while midwives are taught not to intervene unless necessary.
Midwives refer to obstetricians when a woman requires care beyond her or his areas of expertise. In many jurisdictions, these professions work together to provide care to childbearing women. In others, only the midwife is available to provide care. Midwives are trained to handle certain situations that are considered abnormal, including breech birth and posterior position, using non-invasive techniques. In many areas of the world, traditional midwives, renamed "traditional birth attendants" by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other groups, are the only available providers for childbearing women.