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Midwives and private hospital

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What is a midwife?

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 lactation consultant
  • discuss contraception
  • 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.

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