Health & Social Care
Career insights: Become a Midwife
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Midwifery is a career that is always in-demand, despite there being more midwives now than there have ever been previously. There are currently around 53k midwives working in the UK[i], and this number is set to continue rising with the NHS continually putting more funding into recruitment. If you have a passion for caring for others, love the idea of bringing life into the world, and have a resilient personality, becoming a midwife might be the right career move for you. Midwifery is an extremely rewarding sector if you’re in it for the right reasons but becoming qualified requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
What is a midwife?
Midwives are qualified healthcare professionals who assist women through their pregnancy, labour, and help with the birthing process. They also provide care for newborn babies and give support to women after their pregnancy.
The role of a midwife is a lot deeper and more complex than it might look to some on the surface. Midwives have to not only be medically trained, but they also need to know how to advocate for their mothers and babies to get them access to the right support, as well as being able to build up a strong and trusting relationship with those under their care.
The role of a midwife
The role of a midwife is varied, but generally, they are the point of contact for women during every part of their pregnancy. We will speak about midwifery relative to the timeline of a woman’s pregnancy below to give you a clearer picture of where and how they get involved.During Pregnancy
Midwife, or antenatal, care, should begin 10 – 12 weeks into a pregnancy. During this time, midwives routinely assess the health of mother and baby through exams, assessments, and screenings. They also provide information on staying healthy during pregnancy, and they will be on hand to answer any questions the parents may have.
Further into the pregnancy, the midwife will help to devise a birthing plan that outlines how and where the birth will take place (if all goes to plan). Midwives should also be aware of extra support that they can provide if it is needed, such as classes and antenatal clinics.
You can find out more about antenatal care here.Labour
Midwives prepare pregnant women to give birth and explain what is happening through every step of the process. Throughout labour, the midwife will perform cervical exams to check how dilated the cervix is to determine how far they are into labour and will ensure the baby is in the right position for delivery.
A midwife will constantly be on hand in the delivery room unless you ask to be alone. They will discuss pain relief options and administer them, as well as keeping constant tabs on contractions and the health of the woman and the baby. They will also do their best to ensure the birthing plan of the pregnant woman is followed wherever possible.
Most importantly, midwives are in control of delivering baby, usually alongside doctors and nurses.Post pregnancy
Midwifery doesn’t stop at birth! Once a baby is born, it’s important that their health and wellbeing (and the health and wellbeing of the woman) is monitored carefully. A midwife will arrange routine checks of mother and baby, and they will help to feed, clean, and clothe baby immediately after birth and for a period after this if needed.
Midwives will usually be responsible for providing post-partum care for 10 – 28 days after birth, depending on how well mother and baby are doing.
To become a midwife, you need to have a lot of transferrable practical and interpersonal skills. This is vital for ensuring you and your patients build a trusting relationship so that both mother and baby receive the best care possible. In order to be a midwife, you must have[ii]:
- A caring, patient attitude
- Observational skills
- The ability to build rapport
- A cool head
Remember that as a midwife, you will face some distressing situations, so you will need to have a strong resolve and be able to stay calm under stress.
How long does it take to become a midwife?
Becoming a midwife doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of studying and on-the-job training. It will take longer to become fully qualified if you choose a specialism.
Taking a degree in midwifery takes 3 years[iii], unless you are already a qualified nurse, in which case you can take a shorter course (around 18 months).
Midwifes who work for the NHS are paid according to the NHS pay scale.
- Beginner, Band 5 - £25,655 - £31,543
- Experienced, Band 6 - £32,306 - £39,027
- Senior, Band 7 - £40,057 - £45,839
- Nurse Consultant, Band 8b – Band 8c £54,764 - £75,874
How to become a midwife
There are several steps that need to be taken to become a midwife. This is a career that hugely revolves around studying and exams, and a degree or degree apprenticeship is an absolute necessity.
- A Levels or Level 3 Qualifications
A Levels and Level 3 Qualifications will set the basis for your future studies and give you a good overview of the knowledge you need to be a successful midwife. You will need three A-levels or the equivalent L3 qualifications[iv].
Relevant courses for midwifery include sciences and social sciences, but universities may want to see specific subjects on your application. Think about which universities you want to study at after A Levels and use their requirements to inform your subject choices. You may have to contact them directly to confirm this.
University is where the hard studying really begins. You will need to complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in midwifery, or a degree apprenticeship that combines study with on-the-job, paid learning. Courses are three years long, with half of it spent in the classroom, and half spent on a clinical placement where student midwives can get hands-on experience of being in the delivery room. Part-time degrees can also be taken, but they will take twice as long to complete.
Whichever degree you go for, you need to make sure your course is NMC (Nursing & Midwifery Council) approved. You can find approved programmes here.
- Join the NMC Register
After studying and receiving your degree, you will need to register on the NMC register. This is a requirement for every midwife and nurse in the UK and is an open register of who is allowed to practise as a nurse or midwife.
Universities will generally contact the NMC with details of the course you completed, and a statement on your health and character. After this, you will be invited to create an account on their website and to join the register – keep in mind that the fee to do this is £120. If all goes smoothly, you will be accepted onto the register in 2 – 10 working days.
- Apply for jobs
Once you are registered, you can start applying for jobs! Start looking for vacancies in the NHS and private institutions (if this is what you want). The NMC tend to have a lot of vacancies displayed on their website, so this is a good place to start.
Read more: The Ultimate Job Interview Guide
Where do midwives work?
Midwives can work in various settings. Most commonly, they will work in hospitals, but they can also work in private maternity hospitals and smaller clinics or units.
In the UK, a lot of maternity care is starting to move back into the community rather than all of it being carried out in hospitals. As a midwife, you might carry out antenatal and postnatal care in people’s homes, at GP surgeries, in local clinics, and in children’s centers. You may also deliver babies at people’s homes as well as maternity units.
Retraining as a midwife
Retraining as a midwife is completely possible, no matter your age or current career. There are plenty of people who decide to train as a midwife in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Becoming qualified takes 3 – 4 years, but it is 3 – 4 years well spent. If you want to re-train but don’t have the relevant A Levels, you can study A Levels online in your own time. This will also help to ease you back into the fast-paced studying that is required to be a student midwife.