Who Is a Midwife?
A midwife is a professional in midwifery, specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, women’s sexual and reproductive health (including annual gynecological exams, family planning, menopausal care and others), and newborn care.
They are also educated and trained to recognize the variations of normal progress of labor, and how to deal with deviations from normal to discern what, and may intervene in high risk situations, such as breech births, twin births and births where the baby is in a posterior position, using non-invasive techniques.
When a pregnant woman requires care beyond the midwife’s scope of practice, they refer women to obstetricians or perinatologists who are medical specialists in complications related to pregnancy and birth, including surgical and instrumental deliveries.
In many parts of the world, these professions work in tandem to provide care to childbearing women. In others, only the midwife is available to provide care, and in yet other countries many women elect to utilize obstetricians primarily over midwives.
Many developing countries are investing money and training for midwives as these services are needed all over the world. Some primary care services are currently lacking due to the shortage of money being funded for these resources. Midwives believe in facilitating a natural childbirth as much as possible.
Accordingly, it is common to receive care from a midwife in a private and comfortable birthing center or in your own home. Because of their professionalism and expertise, midwives are often part of a labor and delivery team associated with a local hospital.
A study performed by Melissa Cheyney and colleagues followed approximately 17,000 planned home births with the assistance of midwives. 93.6% of these families had a normal physiological birth and only 5% were Cesarean sections. In 2013, the rate of Cesarean sections in hospitals in the United States was 32.7%, which is double the rate that World Health Organization recommends.
The midwife is recognized as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period, to conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and the infant. This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, the accessing of medical care or other appropriate assistance and the carrying out of emergency measures.
The midwife has an important task in health counseling and education, not only for the woman, but also within the family and the community. This work should involve antenatal education and preparation for parenthood and may extend to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health and child care. A midwife may practice in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics or health units.
The term midwife reflects a philosophy of care that is directed toward women and their individual reproductive needs. A midwife usually offers a variety of options and seeks to eliminate or minimize unnecessary interventions. This philosophy is represented by the Midwives Model of Care. The Midwives Model of Care is based on the belief that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes.