A midwife is a specialist in low-risk pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Midwives typically encourage normal, natural childbirth and support women to achieve a healthy pregnancy and baby. Midwives typically practice in clinics, hospitals, birth centres, and homes. Depending on the laws of the state or country, midwives may participate in childbirth occurring in hospitals and in homebirths.

In the United States, there are two recognized types of midwives: nurse-midwives and direct-entry midwives. Certified nurse-midwives are typically licensed as advanced practice nurses, midwives, or nurse-midwives depending on the laws of the state that issues the license. Certified midwives have education and a degree in nursing, midwifery, or gynaecology. Certified nurse-midwives are also able to prescribe and dispense medication in every state in the United States. Nurse-midwives typically work in hospitals and medical clinics.

Direct-entry midwives do not receive formal education in nursing or gynaecology. Instead, the midwife is educated in midwifery through self-study, apprenticeship, private midwifery schools, or college-based programs. Direct-entry midwives are only able to attend births outside of hospitals. Only 24 states in the United States license direct-entry midwives. In some states and countries, direct-entry midwives do not receive legal protection and might even be illegal.

The role of the midwife during pregnancy is varied, demanding, and complex. Midwives are typically responsible for the following:

• Midwives monitor the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy and provide personalized care to the mother.

• Midwives counsel and educate women on having a healthy pregnancy and baby.

• Midwives provide emotional support to the mother-to-be and the family unit as a whole.

• Midwives are present at childbirth and assist in the birth of the infant.

• Midwives assist the woman in finding techniques to cope with labour, including walking around, eating and drinking, utilizing a labour tub, and using a birth ball.

• Certified nurse-midwives may utilize labour-inducing medications, perform foetal monitoring, and prescribe pain medications and epidurals under the supervision of a licensed physician.

• Midwives assess the woman and baby for any complications during pregnancy and childbirth and manage complications in a timely manner. This may include promptly referring the woman to an obstetrician or perinatologist when necessary.

• Midwives provide immediate postpartum care to assess the woman’s recovery and facilitate breastfeeding and mother-infant bonding.

• Midwives monitor the recovery of the woman for the first several weeks following childbirth.

Whether the midwife is a certified nurse-midwife or a direct-entry midwife, midwifery is a demanding and rewarding career. Midwives typically have the view that childbirth is normal and not a medical event, and as a result, midwives are often experts on low risk natural childbirth. Midwives often see women from early pregnancy through the post-partum period, providing both supportive care and education throughout the process. Rather than working as an authority figure over the woman, midwives usually act as a partner to the woman, assisting the mother-to-be in having a healthy pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experience. Midwifery care a viable option for women experiencing low-risk pregnancies and hoping to have a natural childbirth either in a hospital or in the home setting.

Sarah writes on behalf of Team24 a healthcare jobs specialist. Team24 work within locum recruitment and are always on the look out for qualified doctors and nurses nationwide.