Five remarkable facts about a career as a midwife

A midwife at work

There’s a lot more to midwifery than delivering babies. We talk to the experts at the University of Leicester to discover more about this vital healthcare role

When you imagine a midwife at work, you’ll probably picture a baby being born. But while midwives do assist in labour and delivery, their working lives are varied – and can even extend beyond clinical practice into leadership, academic and research roles. 

We spoke to Professor Jayne Marshall, lead midwife for education and Sarah Milnes, lecturer in midwifery, both from the University of Leicester, to get an insight into this crucial healthcare profession.

The role of a midwife extends far outside the birth of a baby

When it comes to their day-to-day working life, a midwife’s role begins well before each baby’s birth.

Midwives take the lead in caring for pregnant women and their families throughout all stages of pregnancy, throughout childbirth itself, and into the days, weeks and months that follow.

“Midwives are the lead healthcare professionals responsible for caring for healthy women and their families during the childbirth continuum,” says Jayne. “That includes the antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal periods.”

Antenatal care refers to the period during pregnancy. During this time, midwives hold regular appointments to check on both the mother and the baby’s health. They share useful information about having a healthy pregnancy, discuss birthing options and answer any questions the mother might have. 

Childbirth is known as the intrapartum period. At this point, a midwife’s role could include checking on the mother’s blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and contractions. They might also monitor the baby during labour, using equipment such as a specialist stethoscope. 

The postnatal period comes once the baby has been born – when the midwife will either conduct a few scheduled home visits or ask the mother and baby to come along to postnatal clinics. Here, the midwife will support the mother’s feeding and caring for the baby, as well as check on their emotional and physical health. 

“Midwives are highly skilled practitioners providing evidence-based, respectful and compassionate care,” says Jayne. 

“They are trained to carefully assess the wellbeing of the mother and baby, and use their knowledge and clinical skills to make appropriate judgments and refer women to other specialist teams when additional care is required.”

Midwives work closely with other healthcare teams

Pregnancy and birth can involve many different specialisms, from the sonographer taking ultrasounds to the pharmacist dispensing pregnancy-related vaccinations and medicine. 

As the lead practitioner for many pregnancies, midwives spend a lot of time working closely with other professionals in the healthcare sector to make sure nothing gets missed in caring for their patients. 

“Midwives do not work in isolation,” says Sarah. “They may work in the community, birthing centres and hospital settings with other healthcare professionals who could be involved in the individual woman and her family’s care determined by her own unique personal health and social circumstances.

“This may include working with general practitioners, obstetricians and the wider medical team, sonographers, pharmacists, physiotherapists, operating department practitioners and nurses as well as safeguarding, perinatal mental health and public health specialist teams.”

Funding is available throughout training

In addition to the usual tuition fees and maintenance loans, students taking certain healthcare-related degrees (including midwifery) could have access to extra funding through the NHS Learning Support Fund.

For eligible students, this provides: 

  • A training grant of £5,000 per academic year

  • Parental support of £2,000 if they have at least one dependent child under the age of 15

  • Reimbursement for any additional travel and temporary accommodation costs while on practice placements.

Find out more about the NHS Learning Support Fund here.

Midwifery is a role that enables lifelong learning

There’s always something new for midwives to learn, and it’s actually a requirement of their job that they keep up-to-date.

“Midwife theory and practice, along with guidance for treatment, is constantly evolving, and it is vital that midwives keep up to date with these changes,” says Sarah. 

“This may involve undertaking additional training to be proficient in new skills, such as becoming an independent prescriber of medicines should this become a vital part of their practice and role.” 

This lifelong learning ensures that midwives “continue to maintain effective registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (the professional statutory regulatory body) and provide high quality, safe and evidence-based care to the public,” adds Sarah. 

It can lead to a range of leadership roles

Midwives have plenty of scope for career progression – both in clinical practice and within the education and research fields. 

As experts in pregnancy and childbirth, it’s essential that midwives’ voices are heard to ensure that maternity services maintain a high standard of care. 

“With relevant training and leadership experience, midwives can aspire to become leaders within all aspects of the midwifery profession –  be it in clinical, education or research leadership,” says Jayne.

“Such roles may include progression to the role of specialist midwife, consultant midwife, independent prescriber or midwife sonographer, as well as director/head of midwifery services or taking on an academic role in universities as a lecturer or researcher.

“The Midwifery with Leadership MSci course at the University of Leicester offers student midwives the knowledge, skills and qualities to progress onto these roles in their future careers.”

Find out more about midwifery at the University of Leicester.

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