What is a midwife's role during pregnancy?

Pregnant? Here’s What a Midwife Wants You to Know

How you can make the most of a midwife's care. - by Nikolina Ilic

by | May 19, 2021

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Across New South Wales alone, midwives support the birth of almost 100,000 babies each year and play a significant role in the pregnancy, birth and post-natal journey. Yet, especially for new mums, it can be tricky to understand the role of the different people in your pregnancy journey, and how much you can lean on them for support.

“Understanding the role of a midwife is the first step in ensuring parents get the best possible care. It’s important for new mums to properly understand all of the options available to them so that they feel empowered to make the right choices,” explains Philips Avent Midwife and Founder of Birth Beat Founder Edwina Sharrock.

“Parents should feel confident to ask their midwife questions. For my Birth Beat clients, I always provide an outline of my services and discuss the different ways I can support them through their journey from pregnancy to post birth. However, if there is any feeling of uncertainty, the best thing parents can do is write a list of questions ahead of their midwife appointment. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question or too many questions! Also, bringing someone like a partner or family member to the appointment for support is recommended to help with any nerves.”

Edwina, who has been in the industry for 14 years explains that more often than not, expecting mums are often surprised that the role of a midwife is far more diverse than just being there for the birth. Midwives support new parents throughout their entire pregnancy journey, from helping new mums to understand their changing body and mood to childbirth education.

“Building a strong relationship with a midwife before birth is a great way to ensure parents feel comfortable and confident in the way they want their birth to unfold,” she explains. “Some parents are happy to meet their midwife the day of birth, while others establish a midwife early on in their pregnancy. This decision is completely up to the parents and differs for everyone. High-level midwifery care may also come at an additional cost, but should be considered as an investment in the overall mental and physical wellbeing of new mums.”

This relationship continues way after birth, with midwifes available to help educate parents on how to care for their baby, and also for the new mum for up to six weeks post birth. Whether it’s helping to give the baby their first bath or assisting with breastfeeding, these are some of the new things first-time parents may find daunting.

“Most commonly, midwives assist new mums with breastfeeding and help in the early days as mum and bub settle into a routine. It’s important to remember breastfeeding is a new and unique experience and everyone’s journey is different,” explains Edwina.

“New research from Philips Avent found over half (57.1%) of new mums experience breastfeeding issues, most commonly associated with sore or cracked nipples, followed by latching problems and a limited supply of breast milk. To help mums feel prepared, I demonstrate with a quality breast pump such as the Philips Avent Electric Breast Pump. I love that it’s a one-size-fits-all pump to easily adapt to any mum’s nipple size. It’s also an extremely simple, fast and incredibly gentle experience – perfect for new mums.”

The best thing you can do as a new mum is ask questions, and as Edwina explains, “one of the most important things to remember is maternity units are staffed 24/7 – there are people available to provide professional advice whenever needed.”

Types of maternity care

While every hospital around the country is different, here are some of the types of care, and what they mean, as per The Department of Health.

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Private Maternity Care

Private patients of an obstetrician or GP obstetrician; attend private rooms for care in pregnancy and attended by the same obstetrician/GP for labour and postnatal care.

Public Hospital Clinic Care

Antenatal care in a public hospital outpatient clinic; attend the same hospital for labour and postnatal care; pregnancy and intrapartum care provided under the supervision of medical staff, uncomplicated births usually attended by midwives.

Public Hospital Midwives’ Clinic Antenatal care is provided by a public hospital midwives’ clinic, with one or more visits to a consultant or registrar; intrapartum care is provided under the supervision of medical staff, uncomplicated births usually attended by midwives.
Birth Centre Care Team midwifery care within a separate section of a hospital where midwives provide antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum care.
Shared Maternity Care Formal arrangements between a public hospital and local practitioner (GP, obstetrician, midwife); the majority of pregnancy care is provided by a local practitioner, with visits to the hospital at the beginning and latter part of pregnancy; public hospital intrapartum care.
Combined Maternity Care Similar to shared maternity care but does not involve pregnancy check-ups at a public hospital clinic.
Team Midwifery Care Small teams of public hospital midwives care for women throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and the hospital stay, with one or more visits to a consultant or registrar.
Caseload Midwifery Care Ongoing care with the same public hospital midwife for the majority of antenatal, labour, birth and postnatal care.
GP/Midwife Public Care GPs and hospital-employed midwives jointly provide antenatal care to women enrolled for public hospital intrapartum care.
Outreach Midwifery Care Midwife care for women with high social or obstetric risk, focus on support and education; intrapartum and postnatal care provided by a public hospital.
Planned Homebirths Pregnancy check-ups, intrapartum and postnatal care provided by the same midwife; transfer to hospital in the case of complications as a private patient of a GP or obstetrician; may require a number of visits with a medical practitioner.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she spends most of the time in the gym or with her husband and daughter. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

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