A midwife is a specially trained healthcare professional who becomes involved with your antenatal care from approximately the 12 week of pregnancy. You will come into contact with a number of midwives throughout your pregnancy and they will monitor you and your baby antenatally, during labour and up to 4 weeks after giving birth if required.
Midwives work both for the NHS and private institutions and may also work independently.
The role and functions of the midwife are :
- Take a thorough obstrectric and medcial history from you to assertain if you have any past or present conditions that could affect yours or the baby's health.
- She will care for you antenatally - on your visits to see her she will take your blood pressure, check your urine, listen to the baby's heart beat, take blood and arrange any scans or consultations with the obstetrician at the hospital.
- Teaches antenatal and parent craft classes.
- Monitor your labour and assist you when giving birth: she is actively present and involved during labour, she will encourage you, support you and tells about your progress and when you need to push. Some midwives are trained to perform episiotomies, suture the perineum and prescribe pain relief. She also works very closely with the obstetrician and will call them should the need arise.
- Monitor you and your baby following delivery..
- She gives postnatal care for you and your baby in the community:
- She advises on ways of how to feed your baby (breastfeeding or bottle feeding).
- She checks you over including any stitches, blood loss, blood pressure etc and may advise about contraception.
- She checks the babies weight, assesses the umbilical cord for signs of infection, looks for jaundice and takes a heel prick blood test for some rare but potentially serious illnesses (phenylketonuria, and congenital hypothyroidism).
- She can be one of the first people to detect the signs of the baby blues in a mother.
Doulas are relatively new to the UK, but are becoming increasingly popular. They are experienced mums who have had extra training. They offer support during labour, but are not a replacement the midwife. They can be hired for just your labour, a number days on your return home or for longer periods if needed.
Their role varies from Doula to Doula, ranging from advising you about how to care for your baby or being a 'home help' - cooking, looking after older children and keeping on top of household chores.
The cost of a Doula also varies depending on what you want them to do for you, for how long and the amount of experience they have.
Doula's are not regulated or vetted so you may want to interview a few first or go off personal recommendation.
For more information on Doulas