Midwives have been recognised medical professionals throughout history who care for expectant mothers through pregnancy, labor and delivery. After the birth, a midwife can also attend to the needs of the newborn. Midwives with extensive experience can become midwife consultants.
Women have been helping each other through the birthing process since the dawn of the species. Every culture has had midwives in one fashion or another. In medieval Europe the church persecuted midwives, regarding their healing abilities as a form of witchcraft. Due to the loss of many mothers and infants who did not have the aid of a midwife, the church would only allow women licensed by the bishop to serve as midwives. In the early 20th century, the medical establishment overtook midwives as the primary attendant in births. The role of midwife became refined and is now a certified health care position with specific studying and testing procedures.
Midwife consultants dedicate half of their time to direct patient care. They also are involved in research, education and training. Depending on the requirements of their employers, some midwife consultants are team leaders in hospital wards or directors of midwifery in hospitals of medical schools. They are midwives with extensive experience as registered midwives, often holding a master's degree or Ph.D. They are the highest-paid type of midwife. Midwifery and midwife consultants are more popular in Europe than in the United States.
Preparation to become a midwife consultant involves obtaining advance education. Master's and doctorate programs in midwifery include courses in statistics, clinical practices, child health, community programs for women and children, epidemiology and anthropology. Many nurses become a special type of midwife known as a nurse-midwife. The nurse-midwife can prescribe medication, whereas other midwives cannot. Additionally, midwife consultants often have experience in management.
Midwife consultants are the highest paid of all types of midwives. The position is prestigious and well respected in the medical community. Many midwives find their work extremely rewarding in and of itself. Midwife consultants have the added benefit of overseeing the teams of nurses, midwives and other staff in a birthing unit.
Depending on the specifics of their employers, they direct research and manage clinics. Midwife consultants teach in universities, write research papers, direct medical societies for midwifery and lead efforts to advocate women's health issues. Midwife consultants work internationally to bring better health care to less-developed nations.
Midwives work in hospitals and in private practice. Although midwives have been attending births in hospitals for decades, some people still think of them as the traditional wise woman without a medical education. Midwives are required to take educational programs and become certified. There are even graduate programs for midwifery at accredited universities.