A midwife is an expert who deals with normal pregnancy and birth and the healthy new-born infant up to six weeks after birth.
The modern midwife has a medical background in nursing and midwifery and is responsible for her practice to the South African Nursing Council. The midwife is there to advise her client regarding every aspect of a normal healthy pregnancy, to identify complications in the pregnancy or birth and to refer her client to an obstetrician for the management of complications.
All over the world women are giving birth with midwives at home, in hospitals or clinics and in midwife –lead units.
The midwife will often see women prior to pregnancy to advise her regarding conception, her diet and the importance of sufficient folate (vitamin B9) in her diet prior to pregnancy. The midwife can give advice regarding which foods to avoid in the early weeks of pregnancy which will help to reduce the incidence of foetal abnormality and/or early miscarriage. The midwife can discuss what sort of exercise might best suit her client and how she can avoid some of the minor discomforts of pregnancy. The midwife will arrange suitable blood analysis for her client and guide her and her family towards the safest and most satisfying birth for herself and her family.
For centuries and all over the world women have given birth to their babies under the care and guidance of the midwife, and research shows that the “Midwifery model” of care for healthy women is still the safest and has the best outcome for mother, father, and baby.
Women in Europe are routinely directed to a midwife when pregnant and the midwife then refers her client to the ultrasonographer and doctor for “shared care”.
Most women are aware that pregnancy is not a disease but a physiological process in their lives just as starting their periods or falling pregnant were and therefore they are looking for education and guidance regarding all the various aspects of the physical development of their bodies and their babies, of how the pregnancy and birth might challenge them mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
At the end of the pregnant process a women emerges as a mother and a man emerges as a father and a family is created or expanded, the midwife holds that developing process in her hands and keeps it safe.
Many midwives see their clients from twelve weeks into the pregnancy, she will take a detailed family history, a medical, surgical and psycho-social history and at each visit she will assess the well-being of mother and baby by recording her emotional health, her blood pressure, urine analysis, and her weight gain. The midwife will discuss the normal development of the foetus with the parents and prepare them for the process of labour and child birth.
Many midwives teach antenatal classes to their clients in preparation for childbirth and will then care for mother and infant during the entire labour and birthing process.
The midwife will then continue to teach the art of breast feeding and will give follow up care for at least the six weeks following the birth of the family.