How To Become a Midwife: Steps and FAQs

Updated 15 August 2023

Midwifery is a profession that has existed for many centuries. Midwives are highly trained professionals who have completed rigorous education and gained experience in the healthcare of women. If you want to impact women's lives positively, there are several pathways to becoming a midwife. In this article, we consider what a midwife does, the different types of midwifery careers and how to become a midwife.

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What does a midwife do?

Midwives assist women before, during and after the birth of a child. They can deliver babies in different environments, including hospitals, birthing centres and private homes. Midwives monitor the wellbeing, safety and comfort of women during the childbearing process. Midwives try to minimise the use of unnecessary drugs and other medical interventions when possible. A midwife may provide education, counselling and information about the birthing process to both expectant and new mothers.

Useful skills and knowledge

The following skills and knowledge will be helpful if you want to become a midwife:

  • Knowledge of neonatal and general medical care

  • Able to remain calm under pressure and in stressful situations

  • Counselling skills

  • Excellent active listening ability

  • Outstanding team working skills to engage with a variety of medical professionals

  • Physical strength and fitness

  • A commitment to equal treatment for all patients, regardless of their circumstances or background

What are the daily duties of a midwife?

A midwife's duties depend on several factors, including their certifications and where they practice. A midwife may work with women of all ages and in different life stages, but they typically work with pregnant women during the pregnancy and the baby's birth. Some of the daily duties of a midwife include:

  • Performing women's annual gynaecological examinations

  • Offering preconception and prenatal care

  • Providing information and education about health, nutrition, fertility, infant care, exercise, pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • Offering labour and delivery support

  • Explaining birthing options to expectant months and helping them determine what the best choice for their specific situation is

  • Assessing and monitoring the health of both the unborn child and the pregnant mother

  • Offering follow-up care to the new mother after the birth of her child

Related: Midwife vs. OBGYN: differences, requirements and FAQs

Types of midwives

There are two types of midwives, including:

Hospital midwives

A hospital midwife is based in a hospital's obstetric unit, a midwife-led unit or a birth centre. They work in the labour ward, postnatal ward or the antenatal clinic.

Community midwives

A community midwife usually works in a team of midwives and provide continuous care to patients in the community. They treat expectant mothers at a clinic or in their homes. Community midwives are present at home births and may also be present to support you in the labour ward if you give birth in a hospital. They do home visits after the birth of a baby for a period of up to ten days after you have given birth. They also provide postnatal care for women who were treated by hospital midwives while giving birth.

Related: Guide to midwife skills: With definition and examples

Average salary of a midwife

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary of a midwife in the UK is £37,131 per year. The average salary of a midwife is determined by a range of factors, including their certifications, titles, the employer and the area in which they work. Midwives may earn additional income through overtime work.

How to become a midwife

You can become a midwife through three different pathways. Follow these steps to become a midwife:

1. Complete GCSEs and College level courses

To pursue university studies in midwifery, you will need to complete several General Secondary Certification Education (GCSE) courses. At a minimum, you need at least five GCSE courses at grades 9 to 4 (A to C). Valuable courses include English, science and mathematics. Furthermore, you will need to finish two or three A level courses or a level 3 diploma in science or health.

When you have completed the required GCSE and college courses, you can either enrol at university for a bachelor's degree or do an apprenticeship.

Related: What A-levels do you need to be a midwife? (with FAQs)

2. Complete a bachelor's degree

Midwives typically complete at least a bachelor's degree in midwifery. This degree will take three years and is approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council. A midwifery degree covers different topics related to midwifery, including postnatal care and complicated childbearing. The degree also covers general items, including public health, health promotion and law and ethics. Since midwifery is a skills-based profession, the degree provides practical experience to build practical midwifery skills.

3. Do a midwifery apprenticeship

If you chose not to pursue a degree, you could complete an apprenticeship in midwifery. This is equivalent to an undergraduate degree. A midwifery apprenticeship involves a student learning about midwifery from a licensed midwife or an approved obstetrical practitioner. The licensed midwife guides the student through their clinical studies and students also gain direct experience in midwifery practice. You can apply for a midwifery apprenticeship with healthcare organisations or individual National Health Service (NHS) organisations.

Related: Higher Apprenticeships: Everything You Need to Know

4. Do a conversion course if you are a registered nurse

If you have completed a bachelor's degree in nursing and have become a registered nurse, you can become a midwife by completing a conversion course. The conversion course will take between 18 and 24 months.

5. Register as a midwife

After completing a university degree in midwifery or a midwifery apprenticeship, you need to register as a midwife with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. As part of this registration process, you will need to pass enhanced background checks to ensure you are fit to be a midwife. Once registered, you can start working as a midwife. You will need to renew your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council every three years by showing proof that you have updated your skills by meeting the following requirements:

  • 450 practice hours, consisting of direct patient care, team management and teaching

  • 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) with 20 hours of participatory learning

  • Five pieces of practice related feedback

  • Five written reflective accounts

  • A reflective discussion

  • A health and character declaration

  • A professional indemnity agreement

6. Choose an area of speciality

Once registered, you can specialise in various fields, such as neonatal care, ultrasounds, diabetes, public health or perinatal mental health. Midwives also have work opportunities in research and education. To specialise, you need to complete further education and training.

Related: How to become a lactation consultant in the UK (with skills)

7. Take a leadership position

After gaining several years of work experience, you can become a team leader or ward manager. You can also become the head of midwifery services at a healthcare facility or the midwives' supervisor at the local supervising authority.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Management Styles

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Frequently asked questions about being a midwife

These are the most commonly asked questions about a career as a midwife:

How long does it take to qualify as a midwife?

The courses to become a midwife usually takes at least three years to complete. If you are already a registered nurse, you can become a midwife by taking an 18-month training course.

Where do midwives work?

Midwives typically work in hospitals or other clinical settings. Some midwives work in private practices, birth centre, university medical centres or patients' homes. Midwives can also work in different health care settings, including special baby care units and neonatal intensive care units.

Does a midwife work alone?

Midwives often work in a team of midwives. They may also work with other health care professionals in an interdisciplinary team with general practitioners, obstetricians, health visitors, neonatologists or anaesthetists.

What are midwives' working hours?

Some midwives work regular working hours, but most midwives work non-traditional working hours, including evenings and weekends. A midwife needs to be "on-call" since expectant mothers can go into labour at any time close to the due date. Some patients may need immediate medical care for pregnancy related health issues. Other midwives work part-time hours only.

Related: Freelance Work: Everything You Need to Know About Freelancing

What careers are related to midwifery

Midwives can complete additional training to become a midwifery consultant, a director of midwifery or a health visitor. Midwives can also work as doulas.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

A midwife is a qualified medical professional specialising in caring for a woman and her baby during pregnancy, labour and after birth. A doula offers support, practical help and guidance during and after the birth of a baby. Although some doulas are trained midwives, no medical qualification or training is required to become a doula.

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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