When you first conceive your baby, it might dawn you’re about to start making some of the most important choices in your life.
Such as who will care for you as your pregnancy progresses and who will support you when you give birth. Should you think about hiring a midwife or an obstetrician?
This choice will have a huge impact on how your birth will unfold, your recovery afterwards, and your transition to parenthood.
You probably assume you’ll give birth in a hospital, but a small percentage of women also choose to give birth at home. This number is growing during the Covid-19 pandemic, as more women find their birth options being impacted by health restrictions.
Either way, hiring a midwife as your care provider has a whole host of benefits.
So let’s look at the benefits of hiring a midwife and if this is something you should consider.
A quick note:
In Australia, the vast majority of women receive maternity care through a private or public hospital, which the Australian College of Midwives calls a fragmented system. What this means is you will see a number of different doctors and midwives during your pregnancy and when it’s time to give birth.
Midwifery continuity of care provides the best model of care for women and babies. This is care from the same midwife or team of midwives during the pregnancy, birth and postnatal time.
Some public hospitals have group midwifery programs but they book out very quickly. Some private midwives have hospital visiting rights so can work in a hospital but are hired directly by you. Or you look at hiring a private midwife to attend you at a home birth.
Hopefully, the following benefits of hiring a midwife will encourage you to explore this option for yourself. The greater demand for these services, the more they will become available to other women in the future.
#1: It’s all about you
A key feature of having a midwife is the woman centred care they provide. Your midwife gives you her full attention, throughout pregnancy, during labour, and after in the postnatal period.
Midwives are ‘with woman’ so the basis of their care is individualised and holistic, caring for a woman as a whole.
Midwives care about your physical health, but also your emotional wellbeing too, not just in pregnancy but also after giving birth. They build a relationship based on trust that encompasses your wishes and the dynamics of your family.
During labour, your midwives create a space where you are free to birth on your terms, while leaning on their support and guidance as needed.
#2: Have a normal birth
It’s actually a fact – women who have continuity of care from midwives are more likely to have a natural, intervention free birth.
Well supported mothers who trust their care provider are more likely to be well informed about the normal process of labour and birth. They’re likely to attend birth preparation classes that support their birth preferences for a natural birth and be active in advocating for their wishes.
Studies from all over the world show women who have continuity of midwifery care:
- Go into labour spontaneously (no labour induction)
- Have babies at full term
- Less likely to ask for epidurals or other pain relief drugs
- Reduced risk of having an assisted birth (use of forceps, vacuum or c-section)
- Have no tearing of the perineum.
Women who are supported to have a normal birth cope better with labour both physically and emotionally. This leads to them having a more positive experience of labour and birth, with an easier recovery.
#3: Babies do better
Babies born to mums who have continuity of midwifery care are less likely to be born prematurely or spend time in neonatal intensive care units. Their mothers are less likely to be induced or have epidurals, both of which contribute to preterm birth and fetal distress.
Just as importantly, after birth babies are less likely to be separated from their mothers with midwifery care. This assists with a much easier transition from womb to world.
In the first minutes and hours after birth, your baby must adjust in many big and little ways, such as regulating their body and temperature systems. This is best assisted by your baby having immediate skin-to-skin contact with you. Breastfeeding is more likely to happen early, and delaying cord clamping is also supported.
A normal birth exposes babies to healthy bacteria as they’re born, and early breastfeeding is equally important to protect their immune system, both in their early years and later in life.
#4: Be more confident as a mother
Mothers who have midwifery care give birth feeling in control of their choices, which have a positive impact on their self confidence.
When you’ve been supported in a way that cherishes you as an individual person and encourages you to believe in your body and yourself, you’re going to be much more confident about the role of motherhood.
Let’s not sugarcoat it, the early days of having a newborn after giving birth can be a big adjustment. Your body has been working hard growing your baby through pregnancy, and giving birth is an extremely physical and mental event.
Your hormones shift, preparing to nourish your baby as you establish breastfeeding. Sleep might not be as plentiful as your baby adjusts to life outside their cosy nest and their survival instincts kick in. All of these factors can make you wonder if you’re the right person for this important job.
Having established a relationship with your midwife during pregnancy, she knows you well and can offer reassurance that you’re in fact doing the best you can. She will understand your personal situation and dynamics to offer advice on baby care, breastfeeding, settling your baby and even routine health checks.
With someone who genuinely cares about you and your baby as a support, you will get through those early days and weeks and feel more confident as you go.