A midwife is a health care professional who assists a pregnant woman during childbirth. Historically, the role of a midwife usually only included giving assistance and expertise during labor and birth with occasional postpartum care. Today’s midwife is medically certified and has a much more active role when assisting parents-to-be. Midwives not only help mothers deliver their babies, but offer their services as early as the family planning stages and continue through newborn care and postpartum support. Although it is not very common, some midwives offer other women’s health counseling and treatment such as pre- and post-menopausal care.
For couples who want to start or add to their family, some midwives offer family planning services. Women can receive gynecological exams, counseling and education, which promote healthy and successful conception. For families who aren’t ready to have children or wish to control the space between their children, some midwives offer birth control services.
Although midwives offer family planning services, most families do not seek a midwife until they have conceived. It is more likely for the role of a midwife to begin with prenatal care. Midwives counsel expectant mothers on prenatal care, nutrition and exercise. Additionally, expectant mothers receive counseling about the costs and benefits of the available pain remedies during labor, such as an intrathecal injection or an epidural. Most midwives follow the philosophy that childbirth is a natural process that should exclude outside interferences. Midwives also perform prenatal check-ups, which include vaginal exams and fetal heart monitoring.
The role of a midwife during labor and delivery is very hands on. They help women through their labor pains and deliver the baby. In the event of complications, the role of a midwife also requires that they consult or obtain the aid of an obstetrician. Once delivery is complete, a midwife also performs duties that have been typically reserved for a physician, such as cutting the umbilical cord, cleaning the baby, inspecting for physical deformities and removing mucous from the throat and nose so the baby can cry, which indicates healthy lungs.
After delivery, the role of the midwife includes counseling the mother on proper breastfeeding techniques and aiding in the care of the newborn. Midwives also counsel new parents on proper infant care, including care for the belly button, sleeping and proper elimination. Women can return to the midwife for a postpartum checkup and may choose to discuss family planning or birth control methods at that time.