In Support of Midwives

There’s been a lot in the news this week about midwives and the quality of care they provide to women and babies.  If you’ve not seen any of it, an Otago Study has been released that claims that women and babies have better outcomes when their primary maternity care comes from a specialist or GP rather than from a midwife.  (You can find the original article here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/84717932/bad-outcomes-for-new-babies-more-likely-with-midwife-research-shows).

My feeling on reading it was that the article (if not the research itself which I haven’t read) doesn’t really provide a clear picture.  I mean, there are other factors that affect outcomes for mums and babies that must skew these results.  I’m not an expert but I always feel uneasy when these sorts of studies turn up.  It felt like the sort of study that shouts about better outcomes for kids in private schools without adequately taking into account the fact that kids in private schools have a whole host of factors outside of school that support them to achieve better outcomes than many kids in the public system.  The sort of study that can be used to the advantage of politicians and business people and that control people and their decision-making through fear.  Maybe I’m just paranoid…

Anyway, as the week went on, a few responses from actual experts seemed to back up my concerns (see this one for an example:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/lifestyle/parenting/pregnancy/birth/84877216/academic-urges-caution-after-release-of-midwifery-study).

As I’ve said, I’m no expert but here’s what I know about midwives.

It was a midwife who was the only person who took the time to talk to me and explain what was going on when I went into labour six weeks early with my first child.  I was in the UAE, in an unfamiliar medical system, run by specialists and medical insurance companies.  She was the only one who I remember looking me in the eye and reassuring me that things were going to be alright.  The only one who made me feel like I could handle what was happening and that I was coping with what was going on.  She was clearly down the pecking order when it came to decision-making but was my only advocate in that room and was the one who insisted to the point of being angry that I got to see my baby before she was taken away to the NICU.  Her name was Ruth.  I had never met her before that night and I never saw her again but she is the only person who cared for me and my baby whose name I remember.

Baby Number Two was born in Cairns.  It was the midwives at Cairns Base Hospital who kept me from going mad when, a week overdue, I spent four days in hospital waiting to be induced while every pregnant woman in Cairns went into labour and delivered their babies before I did.  It was a midwife who comforted me as I cried in the hallway on the fourth day when I was told that it wasn’t going to happen that day either.  When my waters broke later that day, it was a midwife who stayed with me, helped me through a meltdown in the middle of my labour when I started to freak out that, like my first baby, something would happen and this baby would be taken away when it was born.  The same midwife was the first to see and hold my daughter and the one to pass her straight into my arms seconds after she was born.

The lastest baby was born right here in Blenheim.  My midwife met with my at my home when I was seven weeks pregnant and I saw her monthly and then fortnightly after that.  She was always available by phone or text and was completely supportive of all of my decisions and needs.  Sue respected the fact that I knew my own body and knew what I wanted for my pregnancy, delivery and the early days of my son’s life.  She listened to my concerns about any issues that I had with my son and treated me as an expert in my son’s life, as a partner in his care rather than positioning herself as expert and in charge.  She interacted with my other children, spoke directly to my baby, and picked me up when I needed it.  This midwife, my last and my best, has become a friend.

My sister-in-law is a midwife, too.  At our son’s first birthday party there were several women there that she knew from the maternity ward.  She remembered them.  She remembered their babies.  She hadn’t been their lead carer but had looked after them during their time on the ward – even so, she had invested enough in them and their babies that they were remembered.  At a different sort of party, at her own house, she and two colleagues spent a good portion of the evening discussing good practice as they enjoyed a glass of wine.  I really didn’t need to know so many details about stitches, but that was how they were choosing to spend their free time at a party on a Saturday night.

What I’m trying to say is, my life has been positively affected by midwives.  By every midwife that I have come across.  I’m not an idiot; I know that bad things can happen for babies with midwives, just like they can in specialist care.  I just don’t want people to reject our current system or feel that they can’t trust their midwife because of one study.  And I want to tautoko our midwives who must read these articles and these studies and feel a sense of despair and frustration, knowing that they do their absolute best for the women and babies that they work with.

Ehara koe i a ia!  We’re lucky that we have you xxx

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