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How to become a midwife

Delve into the world of midwifery as we explore what it means to be a midwife, how to get into midwifery and the roles of a midwife.

A midwife in scrubs talking to a woman.

The role of a midwife is an essential and rewarding career. Pregnancies and births are happening worldwide constantly, and we need midwives to provide expert assistance along the way. 

Are you curious about how to become a midwife? Here, we’ll discover what midwifery means, explore how to become a midwife, and discuss the roles and responsibilities of a midwife. 

What is midwifery?

While many of us imagine midwifery to be strictly related to the support provided during childbirth, the role of a midwife actually involves a lot more than just that. The midwifery profession is centred around pregnancies, childbirth, mothers’ health, and the postpartum period. 

Midwives are an essential part of the birthing and pregnancy process and a key part of hospital staff. The role lies within healthcare, and there is global demand for the profession. With an estimated 385,000 babies born each day around the world, it’s easy to see how the role of a midwife is essential. We’ll discuss the midwife role in further detail a little later. 

Types of midwifery

All midwives are trained and specialised in providing care for newborns and their mothers. There are, however, different types of midwifery. The two most common types of midwives found within the NHS are hospital midwives and community midwives. 

Hospital midwives

This type of midwife will typically focus on support during labour and delivery, assisting with immediate childbirth. Hospital midwives will also provide care within postnatal wards and are not massively involved in the pregnancy process. 

Community midwives 

In comparison, community midwives tend to support mothers throughout pregnancy and provide antenatal care. The roles of midwives will depend on how their teams are distributed, but this is typically the case. Community midwives tend to build relationships with mothers during the pregnancy and can even attend home births. 

Caseload midwifery

This is an approach to midwifery where midwives are given an allocated number of women to care for. With caseload midwifery, midwives will base their work schedules around the women they are given. 

As we discovered in our open step on maternity care from Griffith University, expectant mothers will ideally work with one caseload midwife throughout their pregnancy. This lets them build a strong relationship with their midwife. 

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife? 

You may have heard of the involvement of a doula throughout pregnancy. A doula is a professional individual trained to support women through childbirth. The role is similar to that of a midwife since they focus on providing care and assistance throughout pregnancy and birth.

There is, however, one key difference between the two. While a midwife is a qualified health professional, a doula is not. Doulas can provide information to mothers but cannot offer medical advice or intervention.

What does a midwife do? 

The word midwife comes from the Old English with-woman, which is incredibly true to the role. A midwife will support mothers and provide expert care throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. So, what exactly does a midwife do?

Midwifery roles and responsibilities

  • Carry out various examinations during pregnancy, and continue to monitor mothers’ health throughout.
  • Perform internal examinations and cervical checks
  • Identifying signs of a high-risk pregnancy and addressing them appropriately.
  • Identifying substance abuse during pregnancy and informing relevant individuals.
  • Provide advice and support to mothers in terms of initial baby care, breastfeeding, sleep patterns, when to bathe the baby, and much more. 
  • Create personalised programmes of care for mothers, and organise any necessary classes or training for parents.
  • Provide advice and support for mothers dealing with miscarriages, postnatal depression, stillbirths, and neonatal death.
  • Assist during labour, monitoring both the mother and baby to ensure they are both healthy. This includes observing the condition of the foetus and knowing when mothers need pain relief, and assisting with newborn assessments.

Your roles and responsibilities as a midwife will differ depending on your workplace and what areas you wish to specialise in.  

How to become a midwife

Does the role of a midwife align with your ambitions and career aspirations? If so, you’re probably curious about how to get into midwifery. Let’s look at how you can start your career in midwifery:

How to get into midwifery

You’ll need a degree in midwifery to secure a job as a midwife. You can do this by applying to your chosen university for a midwifery degree, or by finding a degree-level midwifery apprenticeship. Throughout your midwifery degree, you’ll spend half of your time carrying out work placements.  

It’s worth noting that there are entry requirements for securing a place at university to study midwifery. The majority of universities will ask for a science-based qualification (preferably biology). However, the exact grades you need will depend on your university of choice. You will also need to showcase some skills and qualities, which we’ll explore in a moment.

How long does it take to become a midwife? 

A full-time university degree will take you 3 years to complete. However, if you already have a related degree such as nursing, you can complete your midwifery degree within 2 years. If you want to opt for a part-time degree whilst working, a midwifery degree will take you between 5 to 6 years to complete. 

A midwifery apprenticeship typically takes 48 months to complete and will involve a mixture of workplace learning and academic study. Although an apprenticeship in midwifery is a great option, they can be a little trickier to find due to such high demand. 

Midwifery courses

Taking additional courses can be a fantastic way to boost your CVs and university applications. It can set you apart from other applicants and demonstrate your dedication. We’ve put together this list of courses to widen your knowledge in terms of caring for newborns and mothers: 

Midwife salary prospects

When considering prospective careers, potential salary is something that most of us take into consideration. So, what can you expect to earn as a midwife? Let’s take a look at midwife salary prospects. Please note that all salary figures are from Payscale.com. 

The average annual salary of a midwife in the UK is 29,804 pounds, with the higher end of the salary scale being around 39,000 pounds. Midwives can specialise in specific areas to secure a higher salary. 

In the US, the average salary of a midwife is 89,759 US dollars, reaching 113,000 US dollars towards the higher end. Naturally, you can reach a higher salary as you progress throughout your career and gain more experience.

In Australia, the average salary of a midwife is 63,491 Australian dollars, reaching 89,000 Australian dollars towards the higher end of the scale. In Canada, the average salary of a midwife is 61,926 Canadian dollars, with more experienced midwives earning up to 94,000 Canadian dollars. 

Skills needed to be a midwife

If you’re eager to dive into a midwife role, you’ll need to have some key skills and qualities. Seeing as the role is of a very personal and compassionate nature, these skills are key to being a successful midwife. 

Communication skills 

A key part of being a midwife is communicating with other hospital staff and mothers. You’ll have to provide advice and explain key concepts, as well as comfort and reassure them. It’s important to have strong communication and people skills to ensure that you’re doing this effectively. 

If you’d like to develop your communication skills, why not check out our Communication and Interpersonal Skills at work course? 

Emotional resilience 

Supporting women throughout pregnancy and assisting them with childbirth can be an extremely rewarding experience. However, there will also be emotionally challenging moments throughout your career. Addressing situations such as stillborns, miscarriages, and postnatal depression will be difficult, which is why emotional resilience is crucial. 

Compassion 

As well as being emotionally resilient, it is vital to be compassionate towards others. You’ll be working alongside mothers who are going through difficult times and high-stress situations, so a compassionate midwife is the best kind of midwife. 

Our Introduction to Leading with Kindness and Compassion in Health and Social Care course provides some great insight into building this skill.

Scientific interest 

While being caring and compassionate is essential to the role, it’s also important to note that it is a scientific career. When working so closely with the human body, you’ll need to know anatomy and physiology very well. You’ll also need to pick up on any abnormalities with both mothers and babies, so scientific knowledge is crucial. 

Flexibility and determination 

More often than not, midwife roles will require long hours as well as weekend work, night work, bank holidays, and shift work. It takes a determined individual to work in a role with such demanding hours, but it’s worth the hard work to have a fulfilling career.

Final thoughts

Midwifery is an essential profession that has a direct impact on the lives of mothers around the world – it’s an incredibly rewarding career and has lots to offer. We hope this article has broadened your knowledge of the midwifery profession. 

If you’re interested in starting your career in midwifery, why not join one of the highly-rated midwifery courses we listed above?

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