AIM: To describe the state of the professionalisation of midwifery in Belgium, and to formulate recommendations for advancing the midwifery profession.
METHODS: A descriptive overview of maternity care in Belgium and the professionalisation of midwifery through an analysis of relevant policy and academic texts, underpinned by Greenwood's sociological criteria for a profession: (1) own body of knowledge, (2) recognised authority, (3) broader community sanctions, (4) own code of ethics and (5) professional culture sustained by formal professional associations. From these insights, recommendations for advancing the midwifery profession in Belgium are formulated.
FINDINGS: Current strengths of the professionalisation of midwifery in Belgium included unified midwifery education programmes, progress in midwifery research and overarching national documents for guiding midwifery education, practice and regulation. In contrast however challenges, such as the limited recognition of midwives' roles by its clientele, limitations of midwives' competencies and autonomy, lacking development of advanced roles in maternity care practice and a lack of unity of the organisation and its members, were also identified. Based on these, recommendations are made to strengthen Belgian midwifery.
CONCLUSIONS: Recommendations for advancing the midwifery profession in Belgium includes in particular increasing public awareness of midwives' roles and competencies, implementing the full scope of midwifery practice and monitoring and advancing this practice. Thus, professional autonomy over both midwifery practice and working conditions should be enhanced. United midwifery organisations, together with women's groups, other maternity care professionals and policy-makers as equal partners are key to bring about changes in the Belgian maternity care landscape.