A midwife is a healthcare professional trained to support pregnant women throughout their labour and after the baby’s birth. Both men and women can work as midwives. Midwives work in maternity wards of hospitals, consulting centres of obstetricians, and community health centres. Though it is not very common in India, with the help of a midwife, one can choose to give birth at home.
Midwives may undergo different levels of training. There are exclusive midwifery training programs in various countries across the globe. In India, only a handful of institutions provide the training and certifications. The Indian Nursing Council certifies its graduates as registered auxiliary nurse-midwife (ANM) or a registered nurse and registered midwife (RNRM). The students receive a few months of midwifery training with their nursing education, unlike the exclusive midwifery programs in other countries.
What does a midwife do?
Like a doctor or an obstetrician, a midwife can provide care before, during, or after pregnancy. Some of the roles of a midwife are as follows:
- Provides advice on prenatal exams and tests
- Takes care of the physical and psychological well-being of the pregnant woman
- Plans the diet, exercise, and medications
- Educates and counsels about pregnancy, birth, and newborn care
- Provides emotional and medicinal support during labour
- Assists in vaginal delivery of the baby
- Stitches the tears of the vagina
- Makes referrals to doctors when needed
What is the difference between a midwife versus a doula?
A doula is sometimes considered a synonym for a midwife. But essentially, both perform two different roles. A doula’s work starts long before the day of delivery. A doula is a pregnant woman’s constant companion and support pillar. Unlike midwives, doulas do not carry out any medical aspects of the woman under care.
They offer massages and help to move into different positions during labour. Even during a C-section, a doula helps to alleviate the pain and fear the woman may go through. A postpartum doula is for the complete care of a woman recovering after delivery. They help to care for the infant and guide the new mother through baby care and breastfeeding.
Doulas are not always certified since they are not involved in the actual delivery procedure . Even a pregnant woman’s friend can be entitled to a doula, but not in an official or professional sense.
Who is a certified nurse-midwife?
A certified nurse-wife is a registered nurse qualified to give support before conception, throughout pregnancy, during delivery, and postpartum. They can guide women through safe, natural birth techniques to lower the involvement of technology in their birthing.
A nurse-midwife assists women through childbirth and uses a holistic approach and care for the expecting mother throughout the different stages of pregnancy, starting from conception and sometimes even before that. They are trained to conduct physical exams, diagnose issues and treat them. They may even write prescriptions for specific medical conditions. Nurse-midwives advise and counsel the mothers-to-be to help with their fears and doubts.
Certified nurse-midwives may practice in several settings, including:
- OB/Gynaecology clinics
- Health clinics
- Birthing centres
They can also provide holistic care to women experiencing menopause or perimenopause.
According to the World Health Organization, midwives who are educated and regulated to international standards are capable enough to provide almost all the essential care for women and babies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the essential qualities of a midwife?
One of a midwife’s most prized qualities is maintaining the right amount of contact with the expectant mother. The woman under care should feel comfort and support from the midwife to endure the process with less effort. Experience is another paramount quality to look for. An experienced midwife can handle difficult situations with ease.
Can a midwife replace the doctor?
Some people in other countries deliver babies just with the help of a midwife. The midwife will contact the doctor if necessary. But in an Indian setting, this is uncommon, and the midwife acts as additional support to the doctor.