Midwife means being ‘with woman’. Midwives have special training and skills in caring for women during pregnancy, labour, birth and in 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 train at university and 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 midwife’s role during pregnancy
Many private obstetricians employ a midwife in their consulting rooms to help with your pregnancy care. A midwife will usually:
talk with you about your general health and give you support and advice
do routine health checks on you and your baby, including checking your baby’s position and growth
help arrange hospital bookings, tests and scans
give information and talk about labour, pain relief and birth
give information and talk about life at home with your baby
give information and talk about choices for feeding your baby
ask about your lifestyle, including smoking, drinking and other drugs, and send you for extra support if you need it.
A midwife’s role at the birth
During early labour, the hospital midwife will stay in close phone contact with your obstetrician. The midwife will be your main carer during your labour. She’ll call the obstetrician close to the time of birth.
A midwife will usually:
give information and talk about labour, pain and birth
suggest positions, movements and changes to help your labour progress
guide your breathing and help you to relax
monitor you and your baby’s health through routine checks
reassure and encourage you, and give you emotional support during labour
give you pain relief, in consultation with you and your doctors
assess the progress of your labour and birth and get extra medical help if needed
help your support people to care for you
deliver your baby if the obstetrician doesn’t get there in time.
In most cases, midwives and doctors work together as a team before and during the birth.
A midwife’s role after the birth
Midwives will provide most of your care after the birth, including helping you learn about breastfeeding and caring for your new baby.
A midwife will also:
talk about your labour and birth and explain anything you're not sure about
give you pain relief if you need any and help you recover
set up newborn screening tests
do routine checks of you and your baby
refer you to specialists if you need them – for example, a paediatrician or
arrange for a child and family health nurse to see you in the first weeks after the birth
organise services for going home, if you need them
support you emotionally.
Choosing a midwife
You’re not likely to be able to choose the midwives who look after you at the birth or after the birth. But you’re likely to see the same midwife at your obstetrician’s consulting rooms (if they have one) throughout your pregnancy care.