Midwives are the allied medical professionals who help women give birth at home or at birthing clinics. They are different from obstetricians and gynecologists, and are only limited to the birthing process for their specialization. Being a midwife entails having a vast knowledge about the process of giving birth, as well as knowing about what needs to be done to the newborn in the hours and days after the birth itself.
A good understanding of the life sciences such as biology, reproductive physiology and human anatomy are among the more important subject matters if you want to become a midwife. During the birthing process, a woman's body changes in certain ways to accommodate the passing of the baby through the birth canal. Since the midwife is not as trained as a doctor who is specialized in birthing, she is also supposed to be able to diagnose conditions that would require advanced medical attention like in the case of abnormal presentations (for instance, the baby's head is not the part engaging the mother's pelvis). Also, a midwife doesn't have the license to deal with this problem nor does she have the training or the equipment to be able to do a successful caesarean section (surgically removing the baby from the mother's womb).
In general, midwives advocate the natural birthing method. Some may use local anesthetics to blunt the pain, but the setup in birthing clinics run by midwives is a lot simpler and less drug-dependent, compared to the clinics run by doctors. As you would expect, the birthing process involves a lot of bodily fluids that may unsettle people. Though it is easy to see the glorious event of birthing as a landmark point in time, the practice is not glamorous. You will see a lot of blood. If you're the type who gets a bit weak in the knees when this happens, you might be better off going into another specialization.
Education. One can start as a midwife by entering midwifery school after one's secondary education. These schools offer comprehensive lectures and lessons on the birthing process as well as the necessary practical training to enable potential midwives to experience the actual art and process of the profession. This would include patient interaction in various affiliated institutions and clinics. This vocational course usually lasts for 32 weeks.
Nurses can also apply to become licensed midwives. This conversion process typically lasts 18 months. It is shorter because nurses are already familiar with a lot of the practical things that a midwife does. What is made the focus of the training is the actual birthing process.
Certification and licensing. The law requires that midwives undergo a certification and licensing exam after finishing training in vocational schools. This exam is given by the state regulatory board for health. Once you pass the exam, you may then seek employment as a midwife in one of the many clinics near you.
Being a midwife can be very rewarding if you enjoy helping women in need and being around babies.