In 2015, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) launched the Midwifery Services Framework (MSF): an evidence-based tool to guide countries through the process of improving their sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health services through strengthening and developing the midwifery workforce. The MSF is aligned with key global architecture for sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health and human resources for health. This third in a series of three papers describes the experience of starting to implement the MSF in the first six countries that requested ICM support to adopt the tool, and the lessons learned during these early stages of implementation. The early adopting countries selected a variety of priority work areas, but nearly all highlighted the importance of improving the attractiveness of midwifery as a career so as to improve attraction and retention, and several saw the need for improvements to midwifery regulation, pre-service education, availability and/or accessibility of midwives. Key lessons from the early stages of implementation include the need to ensure a broad range of stakeholder involvement from the outset and the need for an in-country lead organisation to maintain the momentum of implementation even when there are changes in political leadership, security concerns or other barriers to progress.