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What is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

A certified nurse midwife was by Susan Penney’s side 20 years ago when she delivered her son at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Women & Children’s Center. “I’d never heard of a nurse midwife before I delivered, but her personal care and the support she was able to provide me during labor and postpartum were just amazing,” says Penney.

Today, Penney is a certified nurse midwife (CNM) at Wentworth Health Partners OB/GYN & Infertility in Dover, which offers comprehensive care for all stages of a woman’s life, including pregnancy.

Unlike the centuries-old image of a midwife, today’s certified nurse midwives have master’s degrees in nursing and specialized midwifery training and licensing. Similar to nurse practitioners, they can prescribe medications and order tests. They help women through labor, deliver babies and assist with C-sections when necessary. At OB/GYN & Infertility, the nurse midwives work closely with Dr. Lauren Lessard and Dr. Leia Card to help all women and families experience the pregnancy and birth that they envision.

“There’s a misconception that if you have diabetes or preeclampsia or have a scheduled C-section that you can’t receive care from a certified nurse midwife. In fact, we collaborate with our physicians and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s maternal-fetal medicine specialist to establish a personal care plan based on your needs,” says Penney.

Another common misconception about certified nurse midwives is that they do not offer pain relief during labor. Not true – nurse midwives are experts in helping women cope with labor pain. It’s what they do best. They can suggest techniques to lessen pain, as well as order medications and epidurals. “Nurse midwives have no biases when it comes to you and your labor plan," says Penney. "We are there to support your choices and offer evidence-based information to help you make those choices.”

At Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Women & Children’s Center, there are many options for non-medicated and medicated labor, including a Jacuzzi for comfort, birth balls, pain medications, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and epidurals. This personalized approach to birth is one reason it’s the Seacoast’s most popular birth center.

“It is an honor to be in the room when a new person draws their first breath,” says Penney. But the skills of a certified nurse midwife extend well beyond pregnancy and birth. Nurse midwives can provide health care services to women of all ages – from general health check-ups, gynecologic care, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and menopause. “One of the things I enjoy most about my job is helping teens make birth control choices and empowering them to be in control of their bodies,” she says.

Wentworth Health Partners OB/GYN & Infertility offers comprehensive and personalized care in a small practice atmosphere, taking time to know each patient and her personal needs. To learn more, please call (603) 749-4963 or visit

To learn more about delivering your baby at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Women & Children’s Center, visit


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