Prenatal Care and Support - What do midwives do?
What is “good” prenatal care? What does it look like? A woman’s needs are individual, and they vary depending on her health, emotional status, family situation, geographic location, and community. Is it her first baby, or her fourth? What is her childbearing history? Does she have access to nutritious food, clean water, clothes that fit her changing body, and other pregnancy necessities? The list is long, for her needs are as unique as she is.How does a woman know what she needs if she is unaware of what’s available?
A woman, pregnant for the first time, often has to do quite a lot of research to find out about her options for tests, care providers, and the birth itself. Many women do not know that caring for themselves in pregnancy consists of more than a 7-minute, monthly check-up with a physician, an ultrasound, and blood work.
Prenatal care and support, according to the Midwifery Model of Care, consists of caring for the whole woman. When an expectant mother has a visit with her private midwife, she receives individualized care, specifically designed for her. For example, the midwife gives the woman advice and encouragement about her nutrition so that she can find healthy ways to cope with the common discomforts of pregnancy. She also discusses about the changes that are occurring in the woman's body, the physiology of pregnancy and birth, and how to care for herself. In the midwife, the mother will find a compassionate, patient, professional ally. A bond of trust will be strengthened, and the woman will feel safe and respected as she experiences her pregnancy in a completely supported environment.
Prenatal support can include the following:
Education about anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, development of her growing baby, and normal physical changes.
Nutritional assessment, guidance about physical activity and fluid intake.
Information about the different tests and lab work, helping the woman make informed choices about them.
Regular monitoring of the baby’s growth through palpation of the mother’s abdomen, checking the position of the baby, measuring the growth of the uterus, and assessment of the fetal position without ultrasound.
Emotional support is one of the most important components of midwifery care. So often, a mother’s emotional distress and the absence of anyone to turn to becomes a dangerous situation for a pregnant woman. A trained midwife can guide the woman to get the help she needs with sensitivity and compassion.
Processing and discussion of past birth experiences. Often a woman wants to better understand aspects about previous births in order to resolve internal issues and move on before the next labor begins.
Practical discussions about the postpartum period. A private midwife gives the woman information and supports her as she prepares herself, her home, her family, and her work for the recovery period after the birth. Many women do not know what to expect from recovery after childbirth, and the midwife helps her to be realistic and get the most out of this process.
Preparation for childbirth. The midwife discusses and teaches about the physical process of birth. This can include the mother and father if they both desire. The midwife understands that labor is an intense and powerful experience and the woman is likely to be more confident and less fearful when she is educated about the process itself. A midwife also discusses a variety of different coping skills that may be used to help her work more effectively with her contractions, minimize pain, and increase feelings of well-being during the labor.
The midwife often recommends reading materials, books, or publications depending on the woman’s needs, desires, and interests.
The midwife is available to answer questions or address concerns by phone or email, as well as provide referrals to other care providers depending on need.
The midwife, depending on her skills and practice style, might offer therapeutic massage for the woman if indicated.
Accessible midwifery care will dramatically raise the standard of care for all women!