Midwives: The Unsung Heroes

Long hours and high emotional stress make midwifery a particularly demanding profession—Live to 100 highlights the integral role midwives play within our national healthcare service

During each term of a woman’s pregnancy her midwife will be a constant and valuable source of information and reassurance. While most midwives describe their job as ‘privileged’, it is undeniable that the care they provide is treasured by all those treated by them.

A midwife is a professional who specialises in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and newborn care along with women’s reproductive health. Undertaking a professional education at degree level is the most traditional way to become a qualified midwife, although other career routes are available.

During pregnancy, your midwife will take routine blood tests and check your urine for appropriate glucose and protein levels. They will also keep track of the mother’s diet, whilst monitoring the growth of the baby during each trimester. Throughout labour the midwife plays a pivotal role in aiding the progress of the birth, suggesting the best birthing positions and techniques for coping with contractions. While many women are aware of a midwife’s role during their pregnancy, many forget that postnatal care is available to them as well. Your midwife will visit you at home up to 28 days after the birth, checking that your baby is feeding well, putting on weight and that both mother and baby are adjusting. They will also check that the mother’s body is healing, especially if the birth was by caesarian.

Besides educational qualifications, it is widely agreed that there are personal attributes that are vital for filling such a role. Lyn Nicholls et al. state in their investigation into what makes a good midwife: ‘There is more to good midwifery practice than competence and proficiency…having good communication skills made the greatest contribution.’ In fact, the NHS health careers service state that there are six ‘Cs’ that underpin compassion in practice, these are all values they wish for their enrollees to embody.

The 6Cs:

  • Care

  • Compassion
  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Courage
  • Commitment

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