Midwife Responsibilities (Including Roles and Skills)
Updated 28 July 2023
Working as a midwife can offer you a fulfilling career with various opportunities for professional development. A midwife cares for expectant parents and babies throughout all stages of their pregnancy and following birth. Understanding a midwife's specific responsibilities and skills might help you decide if this career is for you. In this article, we discuss midwife responsibilities and explore their various roles, characteristics and skills.
Consider the following midwife responsibilities:
Provide antenatal care
Providing antenatal care is a significant part of a midwife's role. It allows the midwife to assess and improve the health of a pregnant person and their babies before delivery. A midwife might schedule regular appointments to provide care, support and advice to expectant parents and their families during this time. They may conduct screening to identify high-risk pregnancies and provide counselling to patients before and after the tests. When assisting with a high-risk pregnancy, they might refer patients to doctors or other medical specialists.
Midwives work in hospitals and community health centres, or they may visit patients in their homes to monitor their condition. They may adapt their services to meet each patient's needs. While following evidence-based information, midwives work with their patients to create a plan suited to them.
Provide care during labour
They provide care during labour and promote natural delivery, and they also deliver babies on their own if necessary. During labour, the midwife might support patients by following their birth plan where possible. This may include checking vital signs, monitoring the position of the baby and performing physical examinations to determine a patient's stage of labour. They can also administer certain pain medications.
Midwives use various safety measures to minimise infection, including personal protection equipment, sanitising equipment and correctly handling and disposing of waste products. If there are complications during labour, a midwife may manage the patient until a specialist arrives.
Provide postnatal care
Postnatal care is often a midwife's responsibility. They might visit new families following birth to care for and monitor the parent and child. They may assess the health of both and provide treatment where necessary. A midwife can also use this time to support their patient with advice on breastfeeding or bottle feeding, settling the baby, changing nappies and bathing the baby. They may administer pain relief when necessary.
Midwives often conduct newborn screening tests to monitor and document the baby's health. Providing advice and support over the phone might be an important responsibility, specifically for patients living in rural areas.
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A midwife's role might also include educating parents. This might involve people who want to start a family, expectant parents and parents in the postnatal stage. They might provide education on how to prepare for parenthood and labour. Ensuring their patients have the necessary knowledge can help a midwife provide the most effective care.
Follow established policies
Following established employer and government policies is an important responsibility of a midwife. These policies can help to prevent infection, improve safety and increase the quality of care provided. They can also contribute to a midwife's ability to achieve personal and organisational objectives successfully.
Complete administration duties
Administration is part of a midwife's role. This might include recording and retrieving patient information, organising documents, completing medical forms and registering incidents. This allows midwives to be aware of patients' requests, organise information and monitor results.
Roles associated with midwifery
A midwife might work in various environments and specialise in specific roles. Here are some roles associated with midwifery:
Newborn screening and monitoring
A midwife might specialise as a newborn screening and monitoring professional. They often work in a community health centre or medical facility. They organise appointments for parents and babies to monitor their postnatal health. A midwife in this role might conduct newborn screening tests. This can include a small pinprick on the baby's heel to collect a sample and test it for rare but serious conditions. They may also test the baby's hearing and check their weight, reflexes, skin, muscle tone and breathing.
They often have a specific set of questions to determine the parent's well-being and offer support and advice. In this role, they may also immunise babies and document them appropriately.
Midwives may work in public or private hospitals with deliveries and postnatal care. If a patient has a regular midwife, a hospital-based midwife often assists with the delivery. They may also assist obstetricians in their work.
In postnatal wards, a midwife typically cares for parents and their babies after birth before they leave the hospital. They might provide pain medication, assist with feeding, support the parent's sleeping, monitor vital signs and move the babies to and from the neonatal care unit if necessary.
Home birth midwifery
A home birth midwife specialises in assisting with natural deliveries in the patient's home. They may visit their patient in their home for antenatal care. This can include monitoring the parent and baby, preparing for the home birth and educating the family. Once the parent goes into labour, a home birth midwife brings the necessary equipment to support her through delivery.
The midwife monitors the parent to ensure they detect potential complications but encourages delivery free of intervention where possible. If the patient requires hospital treatment, a home birth midwife can organise this and continue to support the patient in the hospital.
A midwife who specialises in neonatal care works in a public hospital in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). They provide comprehensive care to babies who are critically ill or premature. This might include consistent monitoring, administering medications, visiting babies in postnatal wards and conducting further testing. They often assist with feeding breastfed and bottle-fed babies. As NICUs are typically based at major hospitals, once a baby is well enough to move from this level of care, they might organise their transfer to a hospital closer to home.
An endorsed midwife can work in the same environments as registered midwives. The main difference between a registered and an endorsed midwife is that an endorsed midwife can prescribe certain scheduled medications. These professionals have met specific registration requirements and have completed specialised training to work in this role.
Useful skills for a midwife
Many midwifery skills are likely to be valuable regardless of the professional's specific role. Here are some skills that are beneficial for a midwife:
Communication: Effective communication skills are important for a midwife because they allow them to connect with their patients. This can help the patient feel more comfortable, allowing a midwife to provide professional and high-quality care.
Adaptability: Adaptability is a skill that allows a midwife to adjust their methods and plans when things change unexpectedly. Considering the nature of their responsibilities, a midwife is likely to be flexible during various aspects of their role.
Logical thinking: This skill can be important to ensure a midwife can think logically and make appropriate decisions. Strong logical thinking skills can also help a midwife confidently make decisions during high-pressure, fast-paced scenarios.
Empathy: This gives midwives the ability to relate to their patient's emotions and feelings, so they can support a patient and build trust. Empathy can be important during pregnancy and birth because it's an emotional experience for a family.
Fortitude: Having fortitude means controlling mental and emotional stress in a challenging scenario. A midwife might benefit from having fortitude because it can allow them to provide adequate care and continue the necessary support in challenging circumstances.
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