Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Pregnancy health centre

Select An Article

Midwives

For centuries, midwives have provided care to women during childbirth. Midwives today offer this care to women not just during the birthing process, but also throughout their antenatal period ( pregnancy), and for up to 28 days after a baby is born.

A midwife is the expert in normal pregnancy and birth. They are specially trained to care for mothers and babies throughout normal pregnancy, labour and after the birth, and therefore provide all or most of the care for the majority of women. You should know the name of the midwife who is responsible for your midwifery care. Midwives can be based in the community or at a specific hospital, or may even be based at your GP surgery. This will all be explained to you when you book in for antenatal care.

Today there are more than 35,000 qualified midwives in the UK England and they deliver more than 60% of babies - either in hospital maternity units, special midwifery units or as home births

What kind of training do midwives have?

Becoming a midwife means undertaking professional education at degree level. Some midwives are qualified nurses who have chosen to change career direction and undertake the extra study necessary to be registered as a midwife. Others begin their career by working their way up via a range of roles (for example from support roles, which require no set qualifications) before going on to study for a registered midwifery degree. Some begin their midwifery career after a first career in an unrelated field.

History of midwifery

Centuries before obstetricians were delivering babies in hospitals, midwives in Europe attended to women as they gave birth to their children at home. The term "midwife" comes from the Old English phrase meaning, “with woman”.

In the UK, in 1881, three educated midwives, aided by the wealthy philanthropist Louisa Hubbard, set up the Matrons’ Aid Society, or the Trained Midwives’ Registration Society (later the Midwives’ Institute, and, ultimately, the Royal College of Midwives). The Society’s aim was the rehabilitation of the midwife through a recognised system of training and registration. Midwifery can be said to have begun as a profession in the UK in 1902, when the Midwives Bill became law, establishing a Central Midwives Board (consisting mainly of medical men). After years of struggle by midwives to overcome prejudice from the medical profession, the 1936 Midwives Act provided for a nationwide salaried and pensioned municipal midwife service.

What do midwives do?

The main function of a midwife is to provide support and care to women during labour and delivery. However, midwives today don't just attend births, they offer many types of gynaecological care. Midwives can:

  • Perform gynaecological examinations
  • Help with preconception planning
  • Provide antenatal care
  • Assist during labour and delivery
  • Offer guidance with breastfeeding and other newborn care issues.

Although midwives are trained to provide medical assistance when necessary, they will not be able to perform interventions, such as forceps delivery and Caesarean sections.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Parenting newsletter

Tips to inspire healthy habits.
Sign Up Now!

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Morning sickness

Morning sickness

Ginger or peppermint may help ease morning sickness. Learn about causes and treatments.

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
woman holding hair
Natural help for dry or damaged hair
woman in bikini
Get ready for swimsuit season
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
Immune-boosting foods
The role of diet
79x79_not_good_for_you.jpg
18 secrets men want you to know
boy looking at broccoli
Quick tips for feeding picky eaters
hamburger and fries
A guide for beginners
salmon dinner
A diet to boost your mood & energy
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting