Midwife means being ‘with woman’. Midwives have special training and skills in caring for women during pregnancy, labour, birth and the weeks after birth. They also care for newborn babies for between a few days and six weeks after birth, including helping with breastfeeding. In Australia, midwives need to be registered with the Nurses and Midwives Board of Australia to practise.
Midwives can be men or women, although most midwives are women.
A private midwife is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and practises either alone or with a small team of other midwives. Some private midwives who have a Medicare provider number might have access to Medicare rebates or rebates through private health funds. Check with your midwife when you’re asking about costs.
If you’ve been accepted into homebirth by a homebirth midwife or public homebirthing program, your pregnancy appointments are likely to be with a midwife in your home, hospital or the community. Your midwife will talk with you in detail about pregnancy, birth and parenting, and options for birth classes, if you want to do them.
As part of your homebirth plan, your midwife or GP will discuss booking you into a back-up hospital.
A homebirth midwife coordinates your care throughout your pregnancy. Many women report that one-to-one care is a big part of a happy pregnancy and birth experience.
Your midwife will usually:
Once you and your midwife decide that labour is coming along well, your midwife or midwives will come to your home and care for you during labour and birth.
A midwife will usually:
If your midwife is worried about your health or your baby’s health at any stage during pregnancy, labour, birth or after the birth, your birth setting might change. The midwife might call an ambulance to take you to a nearby public hospital.
Unless your homebirth midwife has a special agreement with the hospital, she won’t be able to keep caring for you in the hospital but will stay on to support you. The hospital midwives will provide the clinical care for you instead.
After the birth, your midwife will check that you and your baby are both well and stay for several hours.
Your midwife will also:
Your midwife will help you learn about breastfeeding and caring for your new baby.
She’ll check on you and your baby every day for a few days, depending on how you and your baby are going. Some midwives are available for phone advice (or a visit) up until you have your six-week check with her or your GP.
If you want to go through a public homebirth program, you need a GP referral.
Some private homebirth midwives also need a GP referral. You can ask about this when you first contact any midwives you're interested in.
To find a midwife, you can: