Midwives – The Lowdown
Midwives are trained pregnancy and childbirth care professionals, available in the UK through the NHS or independently.
In the UK, midwifery-led care has become the norm, and midwives are generally responsible for the care of all low-risk patients – and some of them care for high-risk patients, too. This has freed up a lot of time for obstetric consultants, who are now reserved for specialist pregnancy and labour care.
But how do you know what kind of midwife to choose? With independent midwifery clinics springing up across the UK, it can be a difficult choice to make. In this article, we will attempt to make this choice a little easier for you.
NHS midwives are trained and employed by the UK’s National Health Service. As a result, they are free to use. This means that, for most of us, NHS midwives are the only option when it comes to our prenatal and birthing care.
NHS midwives have to adhere to strict policies and are required to remain up-to-date with training. It takes years to train as a midwife, and the course itself is rigorous and made up of mostly clinical placement work, ensuring that when they qualify they have had plenty of hands-on experience. When you use an NHS midwife, you can be as sure as you can be that they are qualified to take care of you and your baby.
Of course, the downside is that in most cases, several different midwives will care for you throughout your pregnancy and birth. For many of us this isn’t necessarily an issue but many women now want a more continuous and consistent approach and prefer to be cared for by one or two midwives so that they can become familiar with them. After all, pregnancy and birth can be a vulnerable (and sometimes undignified) time in a woman’s life.
Independent midwives are usually ex-NHS midwives who have chosen to work independently. There are hundreds of independent midwifery services in the UK, all with different specialty’s and specific attitudes towards pregnancy and birth.
Many women who want a more natural experience will seek the care of expert independent midwives. Women who have been labelled “high-risk” will often lean towards using an independent midwife because they feel they will be treated more like an individual, rather than just a ‘case’.
Of course, it is always important to do your homework when using independent midwives. All midwives in the UK must be registered in order to legally practice, but as independent midwives have a lot more freedom policy-wise, it’s important to inform yourself.
Of course, the biggest problem with independent midwives is the cost. It can cost anywhere between £2000 and £5000 to hire an independent midwife for prenatal, birthing and postnatal care, but many feel this is a small price to pay for continuity of care, and for having a midwife who is ‘on their side’. Many independent midwifery clinics offer payment plans, making the cost more manageable.
When deciding who is going to be responsible for looking after you and your baby during pregnancy and birth, it definitely pays to do your own research – no matter which route you decide to go down.