Midwifery services provide women with a comprehensive approach to health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. This care focuses on promoting the physical and emotional well-being of mothers and their infants. Midwives work with families to deliver babies in birthing centers, patients’ homes or hospitals and to educate people about antenatal care and reproductive health. Midwives are important providers because they are highly skilled at managing low-risk pregnancies, identifying high-risk pregnancies and making appropriate referrals.
Midwives also play a critical role in family planning and addressing sexual and reproductive health needs, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, maternal mortality and morbidity and early childhood development. The best quality of service is delivered when midwives are skilled and supported, fully integrated into healthcare systems and collaborating with physicians and other healthcare providers.
Amid the many challenges facing maternal and newborn health, midwifery services are one of the most cost-effective and sustainable interventions to prevent deaths from complications of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Yet despite their importance, well-trained midwives are scarce and undervalued in most countries. According to the latest State of the World’s Midwifery report, a midwifery workforce capable of meeting international standards could avert roughly two thirds of all maternal and newborn deaths. But this is not currently achievable because midwives are under-utilised and unsupported in low-resource settings. UNFPA works to build a skilled and supportive environment for midwives by helping develop competency-based midwifery training; developing strong regulatory mechanisms to ensure quality services; facilitating a safe working environment; and raising the voices of midwives through established midwifery associations.
When you choose a midwife to support you through your pregnancy and childbirth, make sure you find someone who is kind, trustworthy and passionate about the profession, says Mondesir. Interview candidates and trust your instincts, she recommends. “There is nothing more important than the birth of your baby, and you need to be able to trust that person.”
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) or certified midwives (CMs) are trained in graduate-level programs to assist people in low-risk pregnancies and delivery, she adds. They are able to manage basic gynecological care, such as routine cancer screenings and pap smears, but will refer clients with any serious issues to physicians.
If you’re interested in having a midwife for your next pregnancy, be sure to discuss costs with the prospective provider before arranging your first appointment. Private midwives charge varying fees, depending on where they’re located and how much education and experience they have. Some are licensed and regulated by government, while others operate independently or in conjunction with doctors.
In addition to delivering babies and providing general gynecological care, midwives can help women with chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and are able to prescribe medication. They can also provide referrals for obstetricians or other specialists if needed. Most importantly, both midwives and doulas provide emotional support during labor, and may be available for post-partum visits to monitor the health of mother and infant.