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The requirements needed to become a midwife tend to vary from country to country. Some countries license midwives that are not trained nurses, while other countries may require all midwives to attend nursing school for a certain period of time. Traditionally, midwifery was a taught practice that only required a brief apprenticeship.
Before modern hospitals existed, many women in rural areas relied upon midwives to deliver infants. These midwives learned how to deliver babies from elder midwives. Today, this is not the case in most areas of the world.
Within the United States, each state has a different law concerning the education and training of a midwife. In some states, midwives can only deliver children if they are under the care and supervision of a licensed nurse. Contrastingly, some states allow midwives to perform all delivery duties without any formal training. Prospective midwives within the United States should contact the North American Registry of Midwives for additional state requirement and licensing information.
Within the United Kingdom, all midwives must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. In order to obtain registration, a 32-month or 18-month course must be completed. In addition, all prospective midwives are required to have a Supervisor of Midwives. Supervisors can be contacted through local supervising midwife centers. In the United Kingdom, many midwives practice as part of of the National Health Service, though it is not uncommon for midwives to practice independently.
In Canada, in order to become a midwife, prospective candidates must complete a bachelor's degree. British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec offer midwifery courses at local universities. In addition, these are the only provinces that legally allow midwives to practice. Thus, all midwives living outside of these provinces cannot legally practice midwifery.
New Zealand allows anyone wishing to become a midwife to do so by gaining a Bachelor of Midwifery degree. Recently, New Zealand recognized midwifery as a profession separate from nursing. Thus, most midwives in New Zealand do not have any formal nursing training. In Japan, in order to become a midwife, a person must be recognized by the Japanese government.
Clearly, the steps that must be taken to become a midwife differ depending upon geographical location. In some countries, midwives are simply trained and taught by their predecessors, while other countries demand that midwives obtain a formal university education. The art of becoming a midwife is slowly gaining in popularity as more and more pregnant women seek an at-home delivery.
The other option for how to become a midwife in the US is to become a direct-entry or certified professional midwife. In some states, these midwives practice legally and with regulation; in others, they run the risk of being charged with practicing medicine without a license.
The rules vary widely from state to state. A college degree is generally not required, but there is often some classroom training. The emphasis is on apprenticeship. These midwives deliver babies outside of hospitals - usually they perform home births.
I've learned all about this recently because I would like to have a home birth in the future and I want to make sure that my attendant is well-qualified! Fortunately, CPMs practice
legally in my state, so I'll have more options to choose from. Some nurse-midwives do home birth, but most practice in hospitals and most also will not do a vaginal birth after caesarean, which is my situation. CPMs have a lot more leeway; many will deliver VBACs, breech babies, twins, you name it, at home.
My sister is a nurse who had looked into the steps to become a midwife before deciding she was happy the way she was.
For a nurse, becoming a midwife right now is usually a matter of getting an RN (an associate's degree) and practicing as an RN for a few years, usually in L&D. While you work, you can go to school part-time to complete first your BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) and then your master's degree. Some schools also have combined programs, where you work on the bachelor's and master's together.
*But,* that's about to change. Starting in 2015, all advanced practice nurses will have to have doctoral degrees! It's a DNP, doctor of nursing
practice, which is a professional degree as opposed to a research degree like a PhD. Since midwifery is advanced practice nursing, it will add a lot more schooling. That's part of why my sister decided she was all right as she was!
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