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Iowa School of Classical Midwifery Page

The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery began its first session of classes in the fall of 2000. The School offers theoretical and practical education and training in midwifery, with a classical approach. The School is a not-for-profit organization. It was founded with the goal of providing quality midwifery education to direct-entry students. Its emphasis is on developing independent practitioners who desire to work in out-of-hospital settings.

Classical midwifery was first developed in Europe and Russia at the end of the eighteenth century with the appearance of the world’s first lying-in hospitals. Classical midwifery concepts and skills have not been completely known in the United States until they were brought back from Russia via The Russian Birth Project, a midwifery internship program founded in 1992 by Molly Rybak, CPM, DHom, and her husband, Gheorghy Rybak.

The Iowa School represents an opportunity for midwifery students to achieve a solid theoretical grounding while gaining experience in practical skills. Interested students are encouraged to participate in The Russian Birth Project internship—offered every summer in St. Petersburg, Russia—to help meet clinical requirements.

Prerequisites for Acceptance

Aspiring midwives of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply. The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery does not discriminate against any applicant on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, or national or ethnic origin. It is a direct-entry school, meaning that students may enroll directly without prior midwifery education or experience. The only prerequisites are:

All potential students must complete an application and an interview with the Director.

The School’s Approach

The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery offers a well-rounded midwifery education that starts with a thorough understanding of basic midwifery concepts. To this is added observation and hands-on supervised practice of classical midwifery skills. Both the didactic and practical aspects of the program are presented within the framework of holistic health.

We believe that good midwives are comprehensive, independent practitioners who support women and their families in all phases of the childbearing process. We feel that a qualified midwife must be knowledgeable about the various experiences that attend motherhood; she must be capable of effecting positive change in pregnant/laboring/postpartum women and babies with methods that are supportive, and not destructive, of overall well-being; and she must work within her own individualized limitations of understanding and experience.

We believe that midwifery is an independent profession that draws upon skills specific to its practice. While not falling under the umbrella of conventional medicine, it utilizes certain medical concepts and techniques. While not being a solely spiritual discipline, it demands the heart and dedication of a missionary. It is not undertaken by the faint of heart, as it requires continual personal assessment. It is a service performed by people who choose to embrace life fully, for the sake of others who also insist on a life that is personally experienced.

Our school therefore teaches a constitutional approach to health, including familiarization with:

The entire program covers three years of study which includes class and clinical work each semester (fall/spring). Classes are small and all students are expected and encouraged to actively participate.

Class structure includes extensive reading and discussion of texts and of printed material provided by the school. Students take quizzes and tests regularly and are required to receive "B" grades in order to graduate. Each student completes a final project which involves research and practical experience.

In addition to classes, students take part in skills sessions. Pregnant women, couples, and new parents are invited to the school to act as volunteers for the students; in exchange they receive prenatal and parenting education.

In order to graduate from the school, students are required to complete at least 1500 clinical hours. At least 1000 of the clinical hours must be completed through the school or through The Russian Birth Project. The other 500 hours may be completed through a program acceptable to the school’s Director. Midwifery programs or preceptorships used to meet the clinical requirements must meet or exceed NARM’s (North American Registry of Midwives) requirements for the Certified Professional Midwife credential.

The student is required to have the following included in her clinical experience in order to graduate:

Students learn and practice skills required by the CPM credentialling process and learn additional skills not required by NARM. Students are assessed for each skill attained and a skills checklist is maintained which is signed by the Director at the end of a student’s course of study. The Iowa School is the only midwifery school in the United States offering classical midwifery education.


Students enrolling in the 2000-01 class will be charged $500 per study unit the first year and $750 per study unit the second year. Students also pay for printed materials provided by the school. Seminars or certificate courses offered through the school cost extra. Other costs include books purchased by the student and a minimal amount of midwifery equipment (see Required Materials).

Required Materials

All new students are required to obtain certain books before starting the program. Consult with Molly Rybak for a list of these books.

In addition to books, students must have the following equipment:

Tape measure in centimeters



Allen "series 10" fetoscope

Gestational wheel

Optional: Pinard horn


The Iowa School’s Staff

Molly Rybak, CPM, DHom, Director

Molly Rybak started the school in response to increased interest in midwifery education in her home state of Iowa. Molly graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Iowa in 1983, with a degree in Anthropology and Russian. After giving birth to her first child in 1986, she became intensely interested in midwifery as a means of facilitating women’s growth and transformation. Molly’s midwifery education consists of a combination of apprenticeship training in Chicago, and completion of an internship in a birthing center in El Paso, Texas, in 1990, where she subsequently earned a permit to practice midwifery.

In 1992, Molly and her husband Gheorghy, a native of Russia, moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, where they began The Russian Birth Project, a 10-week midwifery internship program for American students in a St. Petersburg maternity hospital. The Rybaks lived in Russia five years before moving back to the US. In Russia, Molly maintained a private midwifery practice both in homes and in maternity hospitals. A fluent speaker of Russian, she and Gheorghy continue to conduct internships every summer in St. Petersburg. Since 1992, nearly 40 interns have completed the program.

In 1998, Molly earned her Doctor of Homeopathy degree from The School of Homeopathy. She practices constitutional homeopathy as well as classical midwifery and enjoys combining the disciplines. She is the principal instructor of students in the school.

Molly and Gheorghy and their three children and make their home in Kalona.

Anatoly A. Nikolaev, MD

Anatoly Nikolaev has been a practicing obstetrician for20 years. He lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia. For over half his career he has been Head Doctor in charge of Labor and Delivery at a high-volume maternity hospital. In 1993, he met Molly Rybak and became involved with The Russian Birth Project as an instructor and mentor. Anatoly speaks English fluently and is a well-respected teacher in Russia.

Anatoly’s father, also Anatoly Nikolaev, was a well-known obstetrician from Kiev and later Leningrad. He developed, together with several other Soviet doctors, the psychoprophylaxis technique of natural (drug-free) childbirth—what later went on to be known as the Lamaze method.

Anatoly is a board member of both The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery and The Russian Birth Project. His knowledge and expertise, rooted in years of experience practicing modern classical midwifery, make him an ideal consultant and occasional guest speaker for the school. In 2000, he and Molly Rybak began writing a textbook on classical midwifery which will eventually serve as a unique resource for western midwives.

Marcee Murray, BA

Marcee Murray is a practicing midwife in Wisconsin, and the mother of two home-born children. She became interested in midwifery while pregnant with her first child. When she was ready to deliver her second child, Marcee found no midwives available in her area, and she and her husband Mark gave birth to their baby at home with no other attendants. Disappointed and aghast at the lack of midwife availability in her state, Marcee joined The Russian Birth Project as an intern in 1994, having become acquainted with Molly Rybak a couple of years prior at the birth of a friend. After her Russian experience, Marcee returned to the US and began her own homebirth practice.

Following her internship, Marcee became the US intern coordinator for The Russian Birth Project.

Marcee is well-versed in herbs and is currently working on her homeopathy diploma. She and Mark and their two children live as independently and responsibly as possible on an acreage in Soldier’s Grove, Wisconsin. Marcee

acts as preceptor to some of the school’s students and also occasionally teaches herbal seminars. She is a board member of the school.

Dawn Finney, BA, BFA

Dawn Finney began considering becoming a midwife after the birth of her son which was attended by a CNM in a hospital. Wishing to get started toward a midwifery education, Dawn began taking classes at a community college and completed five courses.

During this time, Dawn gave birth at home to her daughter. About a year later she met and began an apprenticeship with Molly Rybak, and enrolled in The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery. Dawn has been apprenticing with Molly since the fall of 1998 and intends to become an intern in The Russian Birth Project in 2001. She plans to become a CPM.

Dawn, her husband Patrick, and their children Ian and Isolde live in Washington, Iowa. Dawn is a board member of the school and also serves as Assistant. As a senior student she is skilled at helping new students learn skills and is an invaluable support to all with whom she works.

Dara K. Flecksing

Dara Flecksing had attended 65 births in her community as a support person when she decided to begin her midwifery education. In 1998 she enrolled in The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery and in 2000 she participated as an intern in The Russian Birth Project.

Dara serves as an assistant to the school and, as a senior student, helps new students in their learning process. She is working on her CPM credential. Dara and her husband William live with their three children in Cedar Rapids.

Auxilliary Staff

The Iowa School of Classical Midwifery periodically invites qualified people of all backgrounds to teach about specific subjects related to midwifery.


Study Unit Descriptions

Study Unit 1:                                    

Midwifery in history

Introduction to Classical Midwifery

History of Medical Thought

Archetypal process of Birth

Introduction to Homeopathy

Constitutional Assessment

Childbirth Preparation Approaches

Early fetal development

Pregnancy: first trimester

Prenatal Skills I



Internal & external Pelvimetry

Unit 2:

Prenatal Skills II

Nutrition in Pregnancy

Introduction to Herbology

Mechanisms of Labor

Normal Labor

Pregnancy: 2nd and 3rd trimesters

Prenatal Care—Complications of pregnancy

Homeopathic philosophy II


In addition to the didactic component of the course, there is a practical component. Students will work with volunteers—both pregnant and non-pregnant—practicing their skills. For Study Unit I, clinical practice occurs at the end of a class day; beginning with Study Unit 2, students will practice skills on a separate day during the week.

Students and staff take a break for lunch at noon on class or clinic days. Students must bring their lunch with them. Kitchen space is provided where food can be heated or prepared.

Potential students are expected to enroll in the entire program and are not accepted otherwise.


All students are required to complete an application. The application should be sent to the school together with a check for half the fee of Study Unit I. If you have financial difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact Molly Rybak at 319-656-3962.

Click here for printable application.


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