What is a Midwife?

A midwife is a healthcare provider who gives care to women during the childbirth process. They are trained not only on how best to help women in labor, but also in the art of listening, understanding, and empathy. Being able to do this helps them understand their patient's needs and the needs of the family members who are present.

Many midwives continue to work with and educate new mothers during the postpartum period as well.

What does a Midwife do?

Midwifery is an ancient and respected career that dates back to biblical times. In ancient times, midwifery was thought of as one of the few career options for women, and the practitioners of this art were venerated by many different societies. In many ancient cultures it was assumed that these female medical practitioners had a spiritual connection that gave them special powers. Today, midwives offer assistance to their clients all over the world during the entire process of giving birth.

A midwife sitting next to her pregnant client.

Many prospective mothers choose to have a midwife attend their birth because their services are often less expensive, yet more personal, than traditional medical care. Other women who are expecting a child choose midwifery as a calming and spiritual alternative to modern western methods of childbirth.

Most midwives specialize in low-risk pregnancies, especially for those prospective mothers who choose home childbirth. If a pregnancy carries complications or is considered high-risk, the practitioner will refer the woman to an obstetrician.

As a healthcare provider, the midwife attends every aspect of a woman's pregnancy including prenatal care, labor, childbirth and postpartum recovery. She will generally meet with a woman during the early stages of her pregnancy to answer any questions about childbirth and address any concerns the mother may have.

During labor, the midwife will assist the mother with finding a comfortable birthing position and may encourage such activities as showering, rocking, leaning on birthing balls, and walking around, to make the woman more comfortable.

There are some midwives who are certified as nurse-midwives, and can offer certain medical interventions. Some certified nurse-midwives are trained in electronic fetal monitoring, and can administer labor-inducing drugs and pain medications like an epidural. Certified nurse-midwives are also often trained to give episiotomies in birthing situations that call for them.

It is important for the pregnant mother to understand in advance what kind of training her midwife has, and what type of medical services she (or he) can perform.

Are you suited to be a midwife?

Midwives have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Midwife like?

Many midwives report that one of the most satisfying parts of their job is being able to assist people in giving birth at home. Because midwives often travel from home to home to help their clients, the workplace can be a transient one.

The workplace for a midwife is generally the homes of clients, but some practitioners also assist doctors with live births in a hospital setting. When working in a hospital, midwives work under a physician's orders and often collaborate with a medical director in order to provide care to patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Midwives happy?

Midwives have the opportunity to help women and make a difference in their lives, which can be very rewarding. Due to a shortage of obstetricians, this profession is expected to be in demand in the near future, especially in rural areas. For people that want to make a difference and have a positive influence on healthcare, the midwifery profession would be ideal for them.

Midwives create very special relationships with their patients while working with them to address their healthcare wants, desires, and needs, and this makes every second of their educational process worthwhile. Midwives see the world through a different lens than others; by sharing their knowledge to improve the health and well-being of others, they feel that they are actively enriching the world, one birth and one interaction at a time. This, in turn, makes them feel that they are contributing positively to society and are very happy to be of value.

How long does it take to become a Midwife?

There are three different types of midwife certifications in the United States: CM, CPM and CNM (please note that each country has different qualifications)

  • A CM, or certified midwife, needs to earn a master of science degree in midwifery that is accredited by ACME, which can take up to six years. In the United States, a CM can only obtain a license to practice in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, and by permit in Delaware. Those wishing to practice outside of these states can become a certified nurse midwife (CNM - see below).

  • A CPM, or a certified professional midwife, is someone who has attended an accredited midwifery school or an apprenticeship program. Certification comes through the North American Registry of Midwives. A CPM will most likely practice outside of a hospital setting.

  • A CNM, or a certified nurse midwife, is a registered nurse who has passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), obtained a master's degree in midwifery, and has passed an American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) exam. It can take at least eight years to become a CNM: four years for a bachelor's degree, one year of nursing experience, and three years in a nurse midwifery program.

Note: CMs and CNMs can become a CPM if they have attended at least ten out-of-hospital births, which qualify them to take the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) examination.

Should I become a Midwife?

Working as a midwife can be an exciting and wonderful career choice for many people. But how can you be sure it’s a good fit for your personality? Looking at the pros and cons of the career can really help, however, it can be difficult to say what the benefits of any profession are since every person is different. What someone sees as a disadvantage may be an advantage for someone else. The deciding factor is how much the pros outweigh the cons to you.


  • The ultimate reward of being a midwife is to make a difference in people's lives - this is a great career choice if you want to be in the helping profession
  • Midwives emphasize a more natural approach to childbirth
  • Midwives are able to connect with another person and support them in achieving their goal(s), such as giving birth, labouring with very little intervention, or improving the health and well-being of themselves and/or their family. When this comes to fruition, it is an incredible sense of accomplishment for the midwife and also gives the patient a sense of empowerment.
  • Midwives can spend more one-on-one time with their patients and can provide more hands-on support during labor, birth and postpartum than a physician can
  • Not only can midwives support choices in labor and birth, but can also teach and empower women throughout their lifespan
  • Midwives feel it is an honour and a privilege to be present during the birth of a new human being


  • Midwives cannot perform a c-section if a pregnant woman needs one (only obstetricians and some family physicians can)
  • Midwives do not handle high-risk pregnancies
  • The public may not be as trusting of the services offered by a midwife compared with those of an obstetrician, family practitioner or a nurse
  • There are some health insurance plans that may not reimburse expenses for midwife services that occur outside of a hospital setting
  • There are odd work hours involved, as babies are born at all times of the day or night
  • Midwives have to stay strong and remain professional even during worst case scenarios
  • Depending on the environment midwives practice in, it is sometimes a struggle to get the respect of a physician
  • At times patients have to be handed off to a physician if the situation becomes too complicated, which can be disappointing if a lot of time has already been spent with the patient and a good rapport has been established
  • If a midwife doesn't work in or near a facility with constant physician backup, they may find themselves in a predicament if the patient needs an emergency cesarean

Midwives are also known as:
Certified Professional Midwife Certified Midwife Certified Nurse-Midwife