A midwife is a health professional trained to support and care for women during pregnancy, labor and birth. They help you to stay healthy in pregnancy and, if no complications arise, to give birth with little intervention. Midwives also care for you and your baby in the first few weeks following the birth.
Traditionally, midwives were nurses who underwent extra study. Now, midwives can become qualified by doing a 3-4 year university degree without needing to study nursing first. The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) is the professional association that represents certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs) in the United States. ACNM sets the standard for excellence in midwifery education and practice in the United States and strengthens the capacity of midwives in developing countries.
Can You Become A Midwife Without A Nursing Degree?
The simple answer is no, in most countries you have to become a licensed RN and then take a certification course to become a midwife. The exception being developing countries where you can become traditional midwife also known as traditional birth attendant or TBA. According to the WHO, a TBA is defined “as a person who assists the mother at childbirth and who initially acquired her skills delivering babies by herself or by working with other birth attendants”.
According to Chris Cummins a nurse with over 3 decades in practice, for you to become a Midwife you will need a graduate degree, so you must start by getting a Bachelor’s degree.
Look into midwifery graduate programs to find out exactly what prerequisites you’ll need. You should have a solid foundation in the following areas:
- The sciences. Take courses in Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy, Physiology and Health.
- The social sciences. Take courses in Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology.
- Humanities courses such as Women’s Studies and Literature. If possible, study the history of the midwifery profession.
If you have a BA/BS degree and want to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM):
- There are many programs that first offer the courses necessary to become a Registered Nurse (RN) and follow with graduate courses in Midwifery. Most of these programs require 3 years of full-time study or its part-time equivalent.
- Alternatively, you may first attend a nursing education program at a location near you and then apply to Midwifery education programs.
- When you graduate from an Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)- accredited program, you are eligible to take the National Certification Exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
- As a CNM, you will be legally qualified to practice in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If you have a BA/BS degree and want to become a Certified Midwife (CM):
- There are currently two accredited education programs with a CM option: The Midwifery Institute at Philadelphia University and the State University of New York, Downstate. These programs require a solid science background from courses like Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Human Anatomy, and Physiology.
If you DO NOT have a college degree:
Midwifery requires graduate-level education.
Distance-Based Midwifery Programs
If you are unable to relocate, there are many fully distance and partially distance Midwifery education programs that may meet your needs. Distance programs require you to receive your clinical education from a practicing CNM/CM in your home or nearby community.