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The Roles of Professionals Involved in Childbirth: The Midwife

written by: Emma Lloyd•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 4/29/2009

The role of a midwife is very different from that of a doctor. In fact, the entire philosophy of the midwife’s role differs substantially.

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    Midwifery is one of the oldest known medical professions, and it is also one of the very medical few professions that is dominated by women. While childbirth became increasingly regulated by physicians and hospitals during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the use of midwives during pregnancy and childbirth is slowly increasing in popularity.

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    Philosophy

    What makes the midwife philosophy different from that of medical science?

    In medical science, pregnancy and birth is often viewed as a condition – as something which must be treated. In the midwife philosophy, however, pregnancy and birth are treated as the normal and natural processes that they are. In the midwifery model, pregnancy is a natural process, not a condition, and “birth is something that women do, not something that is done to them.” (Doherty).

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    About the Role of a Midwife

    The role of a midwife is both unique and demanding. They not only prepare pregnant women for childbirth, they also provide assistance during labor and during first days and weeks after the birth of a new child.

    The midwife’s role is unique in two aspects – first, that their clients are typically healthy and free from disease and injury, and second, that their work involves providing emotional support as well as physical care.

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    Down to Basics: The Midwife Job Description

    The role of a midwife involves providing care and support for a pregnant woman, and also providing care for both mother and child after birth.

    The midwife job description typically involves the following aspects:

    • Providing women with advice on a wide range of topics relating to pregnancy and childbirth, including nutrition and exercise, pain management, and managing conditions such as water retention or gestational diabetes.
    • Providing emotional support at a time that is highly stressful and emotionally charged.
    • Providing support during labor, as well as care and support for mother and child during the first few weeks after birth.

    Good communication skills and people skills are essential for midwives, who will typically work with a diverse array of women, as well as their partners and families. An in-depth ability of physiological and physical processes relating to pregnancy and birth is essential, as is the ability to answer questions and provide advice for parents.

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    Sources

    About Midwifery, Information from the American College of Midwives.

    Turkel, Kathleen Doherty. (1995). The Midwifery Approach to Birth. In Women, Power, and Childbirth: A Case Study of a Free-Standing Birth Center. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.