What is a midwife?

“Being a midwife is not just what a caregiver does. It is who this person is. A midwife stands at the crossing-point of generations, embodying fundamental values in societies across the globe.” – Sheila Kitzingen.

I have come to know that not everyone knows what a midwife is. Some think it is an old-school thing, others think it is some sort of alternative medicine and only hippies make use of midwives. Yes, it is one of the oldest professions recorded, dating back to the two Hebrew midwives in the book of Exodus, called Shiphrah and Puah. But it is also a well known modern day profession. Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand, which have the best birth outcome statistics in the world, use midwives as their main maternity providers.

A midwife is a qualified professional, trained to look after pregnant women, deliver their babies and care for them during the first weeks after pregnancy. She facilitates a natural process and coach women through their journey towards motherhood. A midwife’s approach is based on the idea that the woman is the central decision maker in matters regarding her birth and baby. Midwives respond to mothers as a caring and collaborative partner, highly trained to work with each situation individually.

Research has repeatedly shown the safety and benefits of midwife care. Statistics show that births attended by midwives have:
– lower cesaerean-section rates
– lower infection rates
– fewer complications
– healthier outcomes.

A more professional definition: The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) recognizes the midwife as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period, to conduct births on their own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and infant. This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, access to medical care or other appropriate assistance and the carrying out of emergency measures (ICM definition of a midwife ).

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