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Midwives, also known as doulas or childbirth educators, are typically trained registered nurses that specialize in midwifery. That is, the intricacies and technicalities involved in delivering babies. Thus, the first step towards learning to be a midwife is to obtain a registered nursing certificate or degree. Some nursing programs are four year programs at the college or university level, while other programs may not be quite as long.
After completing the necessary schooling to become a registered nurse, graduates in most countries must pass a registered nursing exam. Successful completion of this examination will allow a person to become a practicing nurse. Since a lot of experience is needed in order to be a midwife, new registered nurses should attempt to secure a job within the obstetrics floor of a hospital.
Most registered nurses must work inside of a hospital setting for at least two years prior to applying for an advanced nursing course. To be a midwife in most countries, a specialized course in midwifery is required. Almost all midwifery advanced courses are two years long, though this length of time can vary from place to place. Following completion of this course, registered nurses will have obtained the equivalent of a master's degree in nursing with a specialization in midwifery.
Once a master's degree has been acquired, all graduates will then be ready to practice as midwives. Some midwives work within a hospital's obstetrics floor, while others work for private clinics. On occasion, a midwife may decide to open a private practice, though this is only possible within certain countries. While all of the information listed above is true for North American countries, midwives may not have to complete extensive schooling in other parts of the world.
In fact, midwifery used to be a skill that was passed down from generation to generation. In some countries, this skill is still taught rather than learned in a classroom setting. Regardless, to be a midwife one must have a passion for delivering babies, working with pregnant mothers, and ensuring a safe childbirth for both mother and child.
Many women decide to become midwives following their own childbirth experience, though this is not an occupation that's reserved exclusively for women. While rare, men may also become midwives. Male or female, anyone with the right experience, background, and drive may learn to be a midwife. As midwifery becomes more popular, many more men are expected to specialize in this type of nursing.
A midwife, doula and childbirth educator are *not* the same thing. A doula assists a woman through her pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum period. She is not trained to perform any medical tasks, unlike a midwife.
Also, there are thousands of direct-entry midwives practicing in the US and throughout the world. These midwives learn through apprenticeships and may choose to attend a formal midwifery program at a college or midwifery school.
Direct-entry midwives and certified nurse-midwives are very different. Most CNMs attend birth in a hospital setting and have been trained to treat birth in a medical way. Direct-entry midwives attend births in a home or freestanding birth center and treat birth as a natural, physiological process rather than an illness in need of medical intervention.