You probably think of a midwife as someone who delivers beautiful bouncing babies into the arms of joyful mums. And that’s definitely one very important part of the job – but there’s so much more to midwifery than that.
To help you explore more about what the role involves and how to become a midwife, we’ve put together some advice for you.
What does a midwife do?
A midwife is the main point of contact for a mum during her pregnancy, throughout her labour and in the first couple of weeks after she has her baby.
Here are some of the roles a midwife performs:
- Getting to know newly pregnant women to help them prepare for pregnancy and childbirth.
- Examining expectant mum to make sure all is well with baby and mother.
- Help mums-to-be to make informed choices about the different services and options open to them – including things like where to give birth and what pain relief they can receive during childbirth.
- Be there to provide support during all the big moments from ultrasound to childbirth
- For up to 10 days after the birth, midwives help new mums adjust to their new role and understand what they need to do to keep their baby safe and well.
The work is vary varied and midwives are rotated around wards to carry out these different duties. There’s also a lot of paperwork involved as every part of a mother's journey – from examinations to hospital visits – has to be written down.
Check out our 60-second interview with midwife Sara Sardarizadeh for some first-hand experience of what this job involves.
'There's more to being a midwife than delivering babies. Learn more about working as a midwife at Success at School.'
And one midwife does all that?
Not, not quite. There are two types of midwives:
- Hospital: These are the midwives pregnant women see when they go into hospital for a scan, have their baby, and are looked after by after childbirth.
- Community: These midwives visit pregnant mothers at home or at the local clinic, and carry out check ups after the baby's been born. Sometimes, they come into hospital to support a mother during childbirth.
Is midwifery for me?
If you're a naturally caring person with an interest in helping others, then a career as a midwife could be for you. If you're prepared to work long hours and can cope with a physically and emotionally demanding job, then you could find the job very satisfying.
Some of the typical qualities you'll need to become a midwife include:
- Emotional resilience and a positive attitude.
- The ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
- Be a good listener and communicator.
- Be able to put people at ease.
- Be patient, caring and responsible.
You'll need to have really good communication and people skills to become a midwife, and you'll also need to be non-judgemental and able to stay calm during stressful situations. Midwives have a responsibility to keep up to date with current knowledge so they are always researching and learning.
As a midwife, you'll spend most of your time working in a busy hospital environment, so if you'd like a job with plenty of buzz, then midwifery could be perfect for you. As well as hospital work, you'll also be required to visit expecting mothers at home during check-ups to make sure that they're prepared for the big day.
What qualifications do I need to be a midwife?
To work as a midwife you need to complete a midwifery degree at an approved university. Midwifery courses are a minimum of three years.
You don’t need to become a nurse first. If you've already qualified, you can do an 18-month short programme to learn how to become a midwife, instead of taking a degree.
Each university has its own entry requirements but as a general guide you’ll probably need at least five GCSEs at grades A-C (including English and a science subject) and two to three A-levels (some unis requirebiology).
Some universities will accept alternative qualifications, like a BTEC or International Baccalaureate. Have a look at the NHS course finder to see a list of universities that are approved to run midwifery courses.
You’ll need to apply for the course via UCAS.
What does midwife training involve?
The degree is divided equally between academic study and supervised midwifery practice – so you’ll spend half the time getting practical experience at a hospital or in the community.
The midwifery course is usually done full-time, but some NHS employers may support current staff wanting to train as a student midwife to do the degree part-time.
Once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) which then allows you to practice as a midwife and apply for jobs, but you’ll need to keep yourself up to date with new healthcare issues and practice (this is required to stay registered with the NMC).
In this video, trainees talk you through how to become a midwife:
What are a midwife’s working hours like?
If you want to practice as a midwife, you’ll need to be prepared for working antisocial hours. You’ll cover shifts, both day and night, weekdays and weekends, and you’ll be on an on-call rota.
How much are midwives paid?
According to the RCM, a newly qualified midwife salary starts at around £21,000 (not including unsocial hours and being on call). There is the potential to earn anything up to £80,000 as a senior manager or midwife consultant.