It’s a common misconception that midwives concern themselves only with the actual act of childbirth and that their responsibilities don’t extend far beyond the maternity ward. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Midwives are an incredibly important part of a long and detailed programme of care that stretches from the moment someone begins thinking about having a child to the 28th day after that child is born. That’s more than 10 months of care received by each family, every time a child is born. With this in mind, we take a closer look at what this care involves and what midwives achieve in the periods either side of childbirth.
Preconception care, as the name suggests, occurs before you conceive a baby. Put simply, it is the process by which you begin to prepare to conceive, work to improve your chances of conceiving or get a better idea of how your health and any existing healthcare issues may affect your child. Midwives are often heavily involved in preconception care and offer advice and assistance to those looking to conceive in the near future.
Antenatal care involves regular appointments with a midwife – though sometimes it may be another trained professional, such as a doctor - that are organised to ensure that the pregnancy is developing as it should and that there are no health concerns with either the baby or mother. It’s also possible that midwives will be involved in special antenatal classes, which provide information about aspects of motherhood and childbirth that new mothers may know little about. It’s often necessary to book such classes in advance, but the midwife will be able to provide all the necessary information to do so.
Midwives are trained to perform gynaecological examinations before the birth takes place and will do so for a number of reasons. These include confirming the onset of labour, identifying the position of the foetus, determining the reason for delayed labour and establishing the presence of forewaters. Midwives are trained to perform such examinations in a respectful, relaxed and sensitive manner and do so on a regular basis. They understand that not all women are completely comfortable with such an examination and will do their best to put them at ease.
Being pregnant and having a child can be a frightening experience. Much of the fear derives from the fact that, for many parents, they’re starting down a path they don’t know much about. Consequently, midwives play an important part in helping to educate parents about their pregnancy and soon to be born child. With years of experience, midwives are better placed than anyone to provide accurate information and advice to parents that are unsure of the way to do things or who are concerned about a particular issue.
Along with providing educational support, midwives also provide a certain amount of emotional support. Due to the nature of pregnancy and childbirth, many parents become extremely close with their midwife and form a strong emotional bond. Sharing one of the most important moments of your life with someone who’s offered you support, advice and assistance throughout a long process can have a powerful emotional impact. However, the emotional support doesn’t end with the birth of a child. Postnatal depression affects more than one in ten women and a midwife will always be there to help diagnose and support any mother through this time.
Work with other social services
As a midwife, you won’t be isolated from other healthcare services and will often have to work closely with other healthcare and social services to provide the best care possible. It’s often the case that mothers will require help beyond standard healthcare provision and may already be receiving assistance from another social service. This is often the case when it comes to young mothers, disabled mothers, mothers who are recent immigrants or mothers who find themselves socially excluded. In such cases, the assigned midwife will work closely with other service providers to ensure their efforts complement and assist one another.
Postnatal Home visits
A midwife’s duty of care generally extends to the 28th day after the child is born, so there’s still a great deal of care to be provided after the birth. Normally, a midwife will visit a new mother the day after they return home from hospital, or the day after birth if they had a home birth. They will check that both the newborn and mother are safe and healthy and that they’re not experiencing any problems or difficulties. Though they may visit a few times in this 28 day period, they’re unlikely to do so every day, unless the mother is experiencing problems feeding the child or there are minor health concerns. If the midwife believes everything is going well, they can discharge a mother from their care after just 10 days.