Midwife holding baby

Midwifery: area of practice

Midwives are highly trained, multi-skilled professionals who provide maternity care from the early stages of pregnancy to six weeks after birth.

Midwives support women, their partners and families through the early stages of pregnancy, labour and delivery, and the first phase of postnatal care. They are the lead carer for a woman experiencing a normal pregnancy and birth. They practise in a wide variety of settings, such as homes, hospitals, GP surgeries or community centres. They work within a health professional team, recognising and respecting respective roles.

Their tasks can include:

  • carrying out clinical examinations
  • providing advice on parenting and breast feeding
  • running antenatal classes
  • administering pain-relief drugs.

Training steps to become a midwife

Pre-registration training for a midwifery qualification can be taken either through a degree, or as part of a short programme. The short programme is designed for qualified nurses who wish to become midwives, and takes at least 18 months to complete. Both types of course provide students with both an academic and a professional qualification and include supervised midwifery practice. Whichever route you take, you need to study on a course that is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in order to be registered, after which you can apply for posts as a midwife.

Skills and competencies required

They need to work independently and as a member of a team, be physically fit, have a mature and responsible attitude, and be able to put women at ease. It is a demanding job that requires enthusiasm and energy as well as the ability to maintain a calm manner in stressful situations. Midwives enjoy a high level of independence and responsibility, usually working in shifts to ensure continual support is available throughout the day and night.