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Midwife Career Guide

How to Become a Midwife

Midwifery is an age-old approach to women’s health and childbirth. In fact, the first licensing of midwives occurred as early as 1716 in New York City. Midwives act as caretakers throughout pregnancy, child birth, and post-partum. They’re known to facilitate natural births and excellent care for mothers. Midwifery has come a long way since the 1700s, and these highly trained healthcare professionals are skilled at making the experience of pregnancy as smooth, safe, and enjoyable as possible for the mother and child. Not only do they provide care and treatment, but they also offer their wealth of experience to give mothers advice and emotional support to help them throughout their pregnancy.  

What’s special about midwives is that they can practice in traditional healthcare settings and hospitals as well as directly to the mother and her family in their home. Midwifery is challenging and fulfilling work that takes a unique set of skills, talents, and passion. If you think nurse midwifery is your calling, keep reading for details on how to enter this career path.

Newborn baby with midwife

What Is a Midwife?

A midwife is an advanced practice healthcare professional trained to help women before, during, and after labor. They play an important role in delivering babies in a variety of settings, such as birthing centers or at home, but most can also deliver babies at a hospital. Midwives treat and manage conditions and complications of pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period, but they also provide primary care and preventive health services, as well as gynecological care in their role as primary or specialty providers. Midwives can carry different training levels, including certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), certified midwives (CMs), and certified professional midwives (CPMs).

Certified nurse-midwives are trained in both nursing and midwifery. These midwives typically work in clinics and hospitals. Certified midwives are professionals whose education background is in a healthcare field other than nursing and who have completed a master’s-level midwifery program. They are like CNMs in nearly every way, except they aren’t required to hold an undergraduate nursing education. A certified professional midwife is the only midwifery credential that requires experience and education in in-home and similar settings such as freestanding birth centers. CPMs sometimes practice in clinics and doctors' offices providing maternity care. 

What Does a Midwife Do?

Midwives are healthcare professionals who assist women through pregnancy, childbirth, newborn care, and postpartum health. Some of their most common daily responsibilities include:

  • Providing family planning and preconceptive care.
  • Doing prenatal exams and ordering tests.
  • Monitoring the physical and psychological health of a patient.
  • Helping make birth plans.
  • Advising about diet, exercise, medications, and staying healthy.
  • Educating and counseling about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care.
  • Giving emotional and practical support during labor.
  • Admitting and discharging patients from the hospital.
  • Delivering babies.
  • Making referrals to doctors when needed.

How Do I Become a Midwife?

Midwives play very important and complicated roles in the women's healthcare industry, so they're required to earn an extensive education as well as pass the midwifery exam. Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a midwife.

  • Become a registered nurse and earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
  • Complete an Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)-approved midwifery graduate program. It’s very important that you refer to the American College of Nurse-Midwives for programs that make you eligible to take the national certification exam.
  • Take and pass the national midwifery certification exam per requirement by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

Best Degrees for a Midwife

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.


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What Skills Does a Midwife Need?

Midwives have a unique job in the healthcare field and, therefore, need a specific set of skills. While their main focus is to play an operative role in safely delivering babies, a lot of other qualities go in to being an excellent midwife.

  • Understanding and caring attitude: Having a baby is one of the most exciting moments in a woman’s life. While one of life’s greatest joys, it’s also one of the most hectic, stressful moments a family experiences, which is why it’s so important for midwives to maintain a calm, understanding, and caring attitude throughout the course of pregnancy.
  • Ability to get on well with people from a wide range of backgrounds: Midwives will encounter all different types of mothers and families, and everyone experiences pregnancy differently with unique challenges. This is why midwives must be open to and get on well with people from all backgrounds.
  • Emotional and mental strength: Over the course of pregnancy and at the time of delivery, there’s a myriad of things that can go wrong. While most pregnancies go just as planned, sometimes there are complications that can border on disaster, so midwives must have the emotional and mental strength to keep mothers and their families calm to solve the complications and deliver a healthy baby.
  • Good observation: There are many nuances of pregnancy. Midwives are skilled at detecting subtle changes in temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, during the antenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal periods of maternity care.
  • Ability to act on own initiative: In urgent situations that may arise during pregnancy, midwives need to have the skill and confidence to act on their own initiative to make sure pregnancies run smoothly and mothers are safe and comfortable.
  • Patience: Pregnancies can be long and exhausting for mothers, with no limit to frustrating side effects. While having a child is a beautiful experience for many, it’s always a challenging process and it’s the job of the midwife to approach every mother and family with patience and compassion.
  • Maturity: Pregnant mothers undergo many confusing and awkward phases of pregnancy, and it takes a mature midwife to help guide these women and their families through the challenges and new experiences of pregnancy. 

How Much Does a Midwife Make?

$123,780

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $123,780 per year, or $59.51 per hour. Based on data reported in May 2021, the lowest 10% of these healthcare workers earned less than $79,870, while the highest 10% earned more than $200,540. There is a wide salary range depending on several factors, including place of work, experience, and geographical location. earned more than $200,540. There is a wide salary range depending on several factors including place of work, experience, and geographical location.

What is the Projected Job Growth?

45%

The BLS reports an extremely positive job outlook for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. Job openings for these healthcare professionals are projected to experience a 45% growth rate between 2020 and 2030, which is significantly higher than the average for all occupations. This will translate to roughly 29,400 new jobs each year over the course of the decade.

Where Does a Midwife Work?

Varies

Midwives are essential in a variety of healthcare settings. The most common places for them to practice include:

-Maternity units in public and private hospitals

-Antenatal clinics

-Caseload models

-Midwifery group practice

-Homes

-Birth centers

-Labor/birth suites

-Postnatal and neonatal units 
 

Interested in Becoming a Midwife?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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