It's a common question I am asked! When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am a midwife. The next question is usually, “Oh, so you’re a nurse?”. “Not quite”, I reply, “a midwife – I care for women though pregnancy and birth and with their new baby.” Then they really look puzzled. “That's not what an obstetrician does?" “An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in caring for women with complicated pregnancies and births. A midwife specialises in caring for women who are having healthy pregnancies and births.” By that stage they’re well and truly confused and I start to wonder what we need to do to promote midwifery as a care option for all women.
The term midwife means ‘with woman’. Midwives work in partnership with women through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Midwives can provide care to women from the time that the woman discovers she is pregnant, right up until her baby is 6 weeks old. In fact, women who experience a normal, healthy pregnancy and birth may not see a doctor at all! Eligible midwives are able to order all the necessary tests and scans during pregnancy and may refer directly to an obstetrician if their services are necessary.
Midwives provide education, clinical care, assessment, planning, support, advice and information, as well as doing all the routine checks of mother and baby. Most importantly, though, a midwife's role is to develop a relationship with the woman and her family along the pregnancy, fostering feelings of trust, respect and safety for the woman and her family.
Midwives advocate measures throughout pregnancy and birth that promote normal birth: that is a birth without interventions. Midwives and are experienced in such things as water birth, active birth, and so on.
Midwives are also specially educated to know if anything is out of the ordinary, and they can get help from obstetricians. In pregnancy, midwives see women at intervals so that any issues that may present can be dealt with before they cause any major issues.
Women who are cared for by one midwife from pregnancy through to birth have better outcomes in terms of safety, lower rates of intervention and satisfaction with their experience. Midwives too prefer to work in this way, getting to know each family individually.
Melissa Maimann is an eligible midwife in private practice in Sydney. One of the first eligible midwives in Australia, Melissa offers a range of care options for women. Visit Melissa's website to learn more about her services.