What qualifications do you need to be a midwife?

Bianca de Blok

Midwives are medical professionals who are trained to help women through normal pregnancies and low-risk births. Becoming a midwife requires specific training and certification in order to deliver babies safely.

If you feel that delivering babies would be a fulfilling career, you should learn about the qualifications necessary to become a midwife.


Many people mistakenly assume that a midwife is a woman who delivers babies in the mothers' home without any specific training. While midwives do often assist in home births, they do so after receiving extensive training. Even direct or lay midwives will attend midwifery school before practicing in the field. A midwife may not have as many qualifications as an obstetrician, but she is still a highly trained medical professional.


Long before obstetricians entered the medical scene, midwives were helping women deliver babies across the globe. In 1560 in Paris, the first recorded midwifery qualifications were made. Parisian midwives were required to pass a licensing test and had to follow the city's regulations. Regulation was rare, however, and it was not until 1902 that English midwives began to receive formal training. In 1932, the first certified American nurse-midwifery school opened and today's certified midwives must pass a series of exams to receive their licenses.


Certified professional midwives are certified by the North American Registry of Midwives after passing a series of exams and evaluations. These midwives can practice in homes and birthing centres. Certified midwives are not registered nurses, but they have all of the qualifications that a certified nurse-midwife would carry. These exist because the "certified nurse-midwife"" license only became available in 1996. Certified-nurse midwives are those who hold state licenses, have extensive education and have completed nursing and midwifery training. These midwives hold state certificates and licenses. Finally, direct or lay midwives have attended midwifery school but do not hold any specific license or certificate, other than the one provided by the school.


Those interested in becoming certified nurse-midwives will first need to obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing. Then they will complete further training at a midwifery school, which typically leads to a master's degree in midwifery. Those training for other types of midwifery certification will need to attend midwifery school. Each school has unique prerequisites for its students. A high school degree is almost always required, as are certain basic college courses. A college degree may or may not be required.


Carefully choose the type of midwifery program you are going to follow. Certified nurse-midwife credentials are recognised across the country in hospitals and birthing centres, so this training will open the most doors for your career. However, it is also the most expensive and time-consuming training program. If you choose to follow a lay midwifery program, you will not be able to practice in states that ban this type of midwifery. Some medical centres look down on certified professional midwives because they do not hold nursing degrees.