What is a midwife?

Midwife means ‘with woman’ and underpins the working relationships and philosophy that governs midwives. A midwife is a specialist health care provider who works with women from pre-conception, through pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period, and also provides care to the baby for the first 6 weeks after birth.  Some midwives work in a Continuity of Care model across the continuum of pregnancy, birth and postnatal care; others work in a more defined area of practice.

Midwives can work in hospitals, birth centres, community programs and independently.  Midwives are specialists in normal, physiological pregnancy and birth, and are highly trained to recognise deviation from normal and refer to obstetric care when required.

Midwives can further specialise in areas such as lactation, perinatal mental health, diabetes care, sonography and more; and can complete further studies to obtain Endorsement to prescribe medicines and order investigations, and to bill services to Medicare as an Endorsed Midwife.

Why become a MW?

Midwifery is much more than helping women give birth to babies.  Midwives have a woman-focused approach, they build relationships with women and families and with networks of healthcare colleagues – obstetricians, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, neonatologists etc.

Midwives work with a diverse range of mothers, they need to be excellent communicators, be inclusive and compassionate, and be skilled at providing education. Midwives need to be able to manage sensitive and difficult subjects and stressful/emergency situations.  Being a midwife is a big responsibility but is a rewarding career with a bright future.

What do I study and how long will it take?

You need to complete a course approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board AHPRA (NMBA) that leads to registration as a Midwife.  There are several pathways to become a midwife: from an undergraduate Bachelor of Midwifery, Dual degree registered nurse and midwife, and various Post Graduate courses for Registered Nurses. Education providers are listed on the AHPRA website.

It takes a minimum of three years to become a midwife without being a Registered Nurse, or in four years a Dual Nursing and Midwifery degree can be completed. For Registered Nurses to add Midwifery qualification, courses range from 12 months to 2 years and include Graduate Diploma or Masters level qualifications.

What does it cost?

Course costs vary considerably, and it is advisable to check with the individual course provider. A range of financial assistance options are available, including:

The Chief Nursing and Midwifery Office offers scholarships twice a year to those studying to become a midwife. Information about eligibility can be found on the Scholarships and Financial Assistance webpage.

How much do midwives earn?

Starting salary for a registered nurse will vary between public and private sectors. Current pay rates for the Western Australian Health System can be found under the Industrial Agreement 2020.

There are additional penalty rates for evening and night shift, weekend and public holiday work hours, meaning many registered nurses earn considerably above their base rate.

What are the employment prospects?

Midwifery is an in-demand profession. The demand for midwives is predicted to keep growing over the coming decade and beyond.

Midwifery services operate in most public and private hospitals in Perth.  West Australian Country Health Service (WACHS) have midwifery positions available in the regions and casual work can be found through the WA Government’s Nursewest agency. Private agencies also operate within the WA health service.

Positions may also exist in public hospitals caring for women with low risk pregnancies through Family Birth Centre, Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) or Team Midwifery Programme (TMP) and Community Midwifery Programmes. Midwives can also choose to become “endorsed” and work as independent practitioners.

How to add to your skillset and diversify or further your career

Endorsed Midwives

Endorsed Midwives complete further study in diagnostics and prescribing, either as stand-alone subjects or as part of a Masters of Midwifery.  To obtain registration as an Endorsed Midwife, there are additional requirements including hours of practice and completion of a course that meets the NMBA standards, the currently approved courses of study can be found on the AHPRA website.

Private Practise Midwifery

A Private Practice Midwife (PPM) practicing in Western Australia (WA) has responsibilities for notification and provision of information in addition to the responsibilities of midwives employed by health services.

A PPM is a midwife who is in private practice and does not work for a hospital or the Community Midwifery Program, although some of these midwives may have admitting rights at King Edward Memorial Hospital and Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Further information about Private Practice Midwifery can be found here.

Lactation Consultants

Lactation Consultants are specialists in breastfeeding, they work with mothers to establish and maintain breastfeeding and to overcome challenges they might experience. The International Board of Lactation Consultants holds bi-annual examinations, passing this exam provides the qualification of Lactation Consultant.  There are 3 pathways to qualifying for the exam, for Midwives and other health professionals Pathway 1 applies: Health Sciences Education – IBLCE

This pathway requires 1000 hours of practice providing breastfeeding assistance in the 5 years immediately preceding application for the exam, 95 hours of accredited breastfeeding/lactation specific education in the immediately preceding 5-year period and passing the IBCLC exam.

Further information can be found in the Candidate Information Guide (external site).

Help to find a job

Browse jobs on the WA Health Job Search website.

Do not hesitate to register for opportunities.

Produced by

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Office