To celebrate International Day of the Midwife, we want to acknowledge the extraordinary work midwives do throughout our pregnancies, the birth of our little ones and beyond. While everyone’s journey and choices are different in so many ways, for many of us, midwives play an incredibly crucial and special role.
We spoke with Midwife and Child Health Nurse Jane Barry about the precious relationship that can be built with your midwife.
The relationship you have with your midwife
Over the long months of pregnancy, a very special relationship often develops between a mother and her midwife. This is also the case for any maternity care provider and expectant mother. What supports the connection is the meeting of two people working towards a mutual goal, and being advocates for a special baby who doesn’t yet have a voice.
Another reason is that for most women, pregnancy is a short but very special period in their lives. Midwives recognise this, as well as being mindful of having a deep sense of responsibility to support women who may also be at one of the most vulnerable times of their adult lives.
Many midwives talk of ‘being with’ the woman they are supporting and in partnership together. What is also valuable to the relationship is that care is centred around the needs of the pregnant mother and her baby, not the midwife as an ‘authority’ figure.
It’s also essential for the midwife to meet their professional responsibilities and the expectations of the health service they work for.
I don’t need to be your friend!
Not all pregnant women feel the need to be close to their midwife, preferring there to be firm set of clear boundaries between them. Every expectant mother (and her midwife) are individuals and there is no one way their relationship needs to be, other than comfortable and beneficial.
It’s all about trust
As you get to know each other, you’ll develop a relationship of trust and confidence with your midwife. You’ll be sharing a lot of personal information over the course of your pregnancy and it’s important you feel comfortable in their care.
Try not to feel you need to insulate your conversations with your midwife or be worried they will be shocked by something you’ll say. As a health professional, they will have been trained to manage most issues and deal with them in the best possible way.
10 ways to build a relationship with your midwife
Most healthy relationships are built on openness and a certain degree of vulnerability. During pregnancy, your focus will be on staying well and doing what you can to have a healthy baby. You’ll also have certain expectations around how you’d like to birth your baby.
- Be mindful that it’s often easier to build a relationship with a midwife who will provide continuous support. But due to the nature of many health care services, this isn’t always possible. You may be supported by a group of midwives and depending on their availability, not always see one who is familiar to you.
- Speak honestly about what type of support you’d like during your pregnancy and baby’s birth.
- If you feel awkward raising any questions, bring along your partner or a trusted friend to your appointments so they can ask on your behalf.
- Try not to rush your antenatal appointments and make time for them. These are a good opportunity to build a connection with your baby, as well as your midwife.
- Ask your midwife what they are checking for when they examine you. Asking “why” and “what do you think about …”? opens up conversations. Remember, part of your midwife’s role is to teach and guide you and if they sense you’re keen, they’re more likely to be engaged.
- Make a note of any questions you want to ask at your appointments. This is a good tip if you’re prone to forgetting.
- Develop a birth plan and ask your midwife what could be useful to include. Ask them what they’ve found useful for other women they’ve supported.
- Take your partner along with you for your antenatal visits. Introduce your partner and midwife and do what you can to make them feel they’re part of the process as well.
- Show interest in your midwife, know their name and establish eye contact with them.
- If you feel uncomfortable with your midwife or would prefer to see another one, ask if this is possible. Although this conversation may initially be awkward, there will be benefits to you both.
Written for Tooshies by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse – April 2022.