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Who you might meet...The Midwife

In our previous ‘Who you might meet’ posts, I have interviewed an anaesthetic doctor and a student midwife. The aim of these posts is to explain a little more about certain healthcare roles and why you might come across these professionals during pregnancy, birth or beyond. Today is International Day of the Midwife and I am really keen to shine a little light on what midwives do and why they are awesome! So here is a wee practical breakdown of the midwives role. Let’s give a big shout out to all the amazing midwives out there!

What do midwives do?

The word midwife means ‘with women’ and midwives aim to support women and their families as much as possible during pregnancy, labour and following the birth of their babies. Midwives do such a huge range of things that it would be hard to summarise their role; not everyone will meet an obstetrician in their pregnancy but every woman will see a midwife. They will look after you during your pregnancy, support you during the birth of your baby (in whatever form it takes) and offer support postnatally too. Midwives are the experts at ‘low risk’ pregnancies and birth but if something requires another opinion or specialised input, you would then be referred on to another team by your midwife. You should still see the midwife even if you are seeing another specialist team though. It is similar once your baby arrives - if everything goes to plan and feeding is going well then it will be the midwife you see but there are times when she may make a referral for more specialised support. 

When will I meet the midwife?

You normally meet your midwife for the first time at your booking appointment. This normally takes places around 8-12 weeks depending when you find out about your pregnancy and what appointments your local team has available. The first appointment can be quite lengthy and there are lots of personal questions that get asked too. It’s also an opportunity to discuss screening tests, ultrasound scans and to understand a little more about what to expect with your baby’s movements. 

Will it be a new midwife that looks after me during my birth or the one I met when I was pregnant?

Caseload care or Group Practice teams are midwives who look after women from their first appointment, all the way through their pregnancies and are then on call for the births of those women who are under their care. This often happens if you are being looked after by a homebirth team or if your area has a caseloading team. It is an absolutely magical way of working but it’s sadly not very common. It will be the midwives who work on the labour ward or birth centre who care for you when you attend hospital in labour and these tend to be different from the community midwives who you see before and after the birth. 

How many midwives will I see? 

In an ideal situation you would see the midwife who is attached to your GP surgery for every antenatal appointment. This allows you to build a relationship with your midwife and, in my experience, it is much more preferable for midwives too. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Some teams are quite short staffed or your ‘named’ midwife may be away on holiday or off sick. Sometimes it will be the same face you see each time, in other circumstances you may see quite a number of midwives.

During your labour you will be allocated one midwife to look after you. She will be monitoring you and your baby really closely and is very skilled at knowing when to ask for advice or support if it might be needed. Most midwives in the hospital work 12 hour shifts so it really does depend when you have your baby. There may be a shift change during the course of your birth so you may have another midwife to care for you depending on the timings of things. 

What happens once my baby is here? 

If your baby is born in the hospital you might be transferred to the postnatal ward. It’s hard to say how long you would stay here as it depends on what has happened during your birth. Midwives will support you with feeding and help you to gain confidence with things like nappy changes and feeding cues. If you have your baby at home, you will have quite a few visits to check in on you and baby during the initial few days. The community midwives will see you again once you are home and will be keeping an eye on your baby as well as making sure you are recovering well. 

In my humble, and very biased opinion, midwives are incredible. They are so skilled in so many practical ways and most midwives have supported hundreds of women during their pregnancies and in the births of their babies. Midwives are very adept at picking up on emotional cues and are able to support women and their partners through a journey that is both exhilarating and daunting in equal measure. I am so in awe of the incredible midwives that I get to work alongside; their kindness, compassion and skill are truly remarkable. I would not have had the births I did, or be the mother I am, had it not been for the reassurance, guidance and love of the midwives who cared for me. Thank you for listening to me, for keeping me safe and for guiding me through the murky path of new parenthood. It is such a privilege to be a midwife and to have been cared for by midwives who have shaped the way I work, the way I have birthed and the way I mother. To midwives everywhere (and to some very special ones in particular), thank you. 

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