They’ll be one of the most important people in your life for nine months (and beyond). So here’s what you need to know about your midwife’s role.
What is a midwife?
A midwife is a health professional (male or female) who supports women through pregnancy, labour, birth and the early days of parenthood (MIDIRS, 2017). They will see you through scans, tests and welcoming your baby into the world.
What does a midwife do?
A midwife can be based in hospital, in a community setting like a midwife-led unit or a doctor’s surgery, or they can visit you at home (MIDIRS, 2017). Community midwives will monitor you during your pregnancy, give advice and arrange access to any medical care you need.
For the birth, a hospital midwife will support and guide you and help you to get medical support if you need it. After your baby is born, a community midwife will be around to help you feed and care for your baby. That is, until you’re ready to say goodbye to them and switch over to a health visitor.
Do I have to see my GP for a referral to a midwife?
No, it’s much simpler than that – you can go directly to a midwife for your antenatal care (NICE, 2008). Your GP practice or health centre can give you contact details for an NHS midwife. Your local NHS Hospital Trust website might also contain NHS midwives’ contact details.
"You don’t have to see a GP or an obstetrician while you’re pregnant or giving birth if you’d prefer not to, as long there are no complications (NICE, 2008)."
Can I choose a private midwife, rather than NHS?
Of course, if you’re happy to pay. Independent midwives work for themselves so they charge for their services (IMUK, 2014a).
If you opt for this route the same midwife – possibly with a colleague – will care for you throughout. This can improve a woman’s chance of achieving the kind of birth she is aiming for (IMUK, 2014b). Independent midwives are often very experienced in more complicated births, such as vaginal breech, twin, and after caesarean (VBAC) births too (IMUK, 2014b).
Many women who choose indpendent midwives plump for a home birth but it’s not restricted: you are still able to access NHS care if it’s needed (IMUK, 2014c). Find out how to access an independent midwife at IMUK or the Positive Birth Movement or go for a personal recommendation from a friend.
Is a doula the same as a midwife?
No. You might have heard mention of doulas but have never been quite sure how they’re different from midwives. The main distinction is that they are not acting medically but as a person who supports you during labour, birth and postnatally (Doula UK, 2017).
What happens at my midwife appointments?
If this is your first baby you’ll probably have 10 appointments, but if you already have children it will likely drop down to seven (NICE, 2008). You might have extra appointments if you see a specialist; if so, this should be written in your maternity notes that you’ll get at your ‘booking’ (first) appointment (NICE, 2008). Here’s what to expect:
- You’ll have your ‘booking’ appointment between eight to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- At each appointment, you’ll have specific topics to talk through. This will include things like which screening and antenatal tests are available, your lifestyle or what type of birth you’d like. You’ll always be given the chance to ask questions.
- At every appointment, your midwife will ask permission to take your blood pressure and check your urine for glucose and protein.
- Your midwife will feel your tummy to see how your baby is growing, and listen to your baby’s heartbeat. Towards the end of your pregnancy, they’ll also ask about their activity and check which position your baby is in.
Do I call my midwife when I go into labour?
The process on the big day varies throughout the country, so talk to your midwife about what happens in your area. Your local NHS Hospital Trust might also provide details. Some areas have a single telephone number to call when you’re in labour, where you speak to a midwife and discuss what to do.
Whether you’re having your baby at home, a midwife-led unit or an obstetric unit, the midwife will support you and liaise with medical staff if needed (NICE, 2014). Straight after the birth, your midwife will check you both over and offer help with feeding and stitches if needed. They might also refer you on to further medical support if you need it (NICE, 2006, 2014).
Will I see the midwife after my baby is born?
Technically, your midwife will continue to support you for six to eight weeks after you welcome your baby into the world and will also make sure you’re both adjusting well (Raynor, 2017). If you’re doing ok though, you’re more likely to move over to the care of a health visitor around day ten. Check your maternity notes or ask your midwife to find out how and when the transition works in your area.
This page was last reviewed in September 2017.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about having a baby, labour and life with a new child.
Doula UK (2017) About doulas. Available at: https://doula.org.uk/about-doulas/ [Accessed 12th September 2017].
IMUK (2014a) FAQs. http://www.imuk.org.uk/professionals/faqs/#about [Accessed 6th September 2017].
IMUK (2014b) What we do. http://www.imuk.org.uk/families/what-we-do/ [Accessed 6th September 2017].
IMUK (2014c) Hospital birth and NHS care. http://www.imuk.org.uk/families/faqs/#hospital [Accessed 12th September 2017].
MIDIRS (2017) Definition of the midwife. https://www.midirs.org/how-to-become-a-midwife/definition-midwife/ [Accessed 10th August 2017].
NHS (2015) Your antenatal care. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/antenatal-midwife… [Accessed 10th August 2017].
NICE (2006) Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth CG37. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg37 [Accessed 6th September 2017].
NICE (2008) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62 [Accessed 10th August 2017].
NICE (2014) Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies CG 190 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190 [Accessed 6th September 2017].
Raynor MD (2017) Myles survival guide to midwifery Ebook. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books [Accessed 12th September 2017].
Department of Health (2014) Independent midwives: insurance options outlined. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/independent-midwives-insurance-optio… [Accessed 6th September 2017].
MIDIRS (2017) Midwifery education: academic and clinical course content. Available at: https://www.midirs.org/how-to-become-a-midwife/midwifery-education-acad… [Accessed 6th September 2017].
NMC (2015) The Code. Available at: https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/code/ [Accessed 6th September 2017].
NMC (2017) Standards for competence for registered midwives. Available at: https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/standards/nmc-standar… 6th September 2017].
RCM (2018) Independent midwives FAQs. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/content/independent-midwives-faqa [Accessed 5th March 2018].