Through the World Health Organization's definition of midwifery, midwives are frequently heard to describe themselves as autonomous practitioners. In this article this notion is refuted. An overview of individual and collective autonomy is first presented to contextualize the subsequent discussion. Then the notion of autonomy in relation to midwifery practice in Scotland and New Zealand is critiqued through tracing the history of midwives and midwifery in these two countries. Issues relating to midwifery registration, medicalization of birth and consumerism are discussed. Each of these categories is suggested as limiting to autonomous practice within midwifery.