Understanding Midwives and Midwifery
Historically midwifery is a very old profession. Dating back to as long as humans have existed. Long before it was a professional career, experienced women in the community were responsible for caring for mothers in labour and childbirth. These are now known as traditional midwives in the modern age.
Fast forward hundreds of years and great advances in medical technology. Midwives are now trained healthcare professionals. Registered, professional nurses who throughout the course of their tertiary studies (Degree or Diploma) specialised in the field of midwifery. Midwifery is the art of caring for women from pre-conception, throughout pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as the postnatal period.
So why are midwives so important? They are usually (or supposed to be) the first point of contact to healthcare that women should interact with, especially during their reproductive years. They care for, monitor and screen women for any risks associated with their health and wellness, especially during pregnancy, they educate, they counsel and advocate for the wellbeing of their patients. Their approach to childbearing is based on holistic, evidence based obstetric practices and principles, which focuses on a more natural approach to childbirth, intervening only when medically necessary. They are an essential member of the multidisciplinary team and often serves as a bridge between different medical specialties.
In South Africa midwives are required by law to be registered with the South African Nursing Council (SANC) in order to practice their craft. SANC is the body entrusted to set and maintain standards of nursing education and practice in the Republic of South Africa. It is an autonomous, financially independent, statutory body (www.sanc.co.za).
There are two main classifications of midwives: employed midwives and independent midwives. An employed midwife is a midwife in employ of a clinic or hospital in the state or private healthcare setting. They function mainly under the protocols and policies of their specific health care facility. An independent midwife is self-employed and functions under the policies and protocols of the facilities where they have practicing rights or are affiliated with. They can either be in individual practice or a group practice (2 or more midwives). Both are required by SANC to practice within the medico-legal framework as set out by the relevant acts and regulations, that govern their practice.
Every woman should have a midwife on speed dial. A trained professional that will put your women’s health needs first. Someone to grow old with who can care for you and your reproductive health needs throughout the lifespan. A quick internet search may give you a list of midwives that may be practicing in your area. In some places you will be spoiled with choice. In more remote areas you may need to travel to meet your nearest midwife.
For more information on midwife-led care you can contact Sr. Victoria Black on firstname.lastname@example.org.