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Midwives play a crucial role in providing essential healthcare services to mothers and infants by looking after them, providing lifesaving immunisations and giving health advice. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, midwives are doing a tremendous job by providing quality midwifery care to pregnant women and newborns in health care facilities to ensure that the mother and baby are healthy and safe .
So, who is a midwife and what role do they play during pregnancy. Let's read on to find out.
Who Is A Midwife?
A midwife is a trained health care professional, who looks after women during pregnancy, labour and postpartum period and who also takes care of the newborn. Midwives ensure a healthy and positive outcome for women and their babies .
It is estimated that there are about 1.1 million midwives worldwide . According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year in India, 35,000 women die while pregnant, giving birth and during postnatal period. There are 272,000 stillbirths and 562,000 babies die during the first month after birth. Safe and effective midwifery care can prevent stillbirths, maternal and newborn deaths .
Women who choose midwives usually want little medical intervention, however, many doctors do not recommend midwifery care unless the midwife is under the direct supervision of a doctor.
Where Do Midwives Work?
Midwives provide an array of healthcare services to women which includes gynaecological examinations, family planning, preconception care, prenatal care, delivery support, newborn care and menopausal management. They work in a number of healthcare settings including birth centres, hospital maternity units, obstetrician's consulting rooms, midwifery group practices, community health centres and in private homes.
Image ref: www.evidentlycochrane.net
Types Of Midwives
• Certified nurse midwives (CNM) -Certified nurse midwives or nurse midwives are advanced practice registered nurses. They operate in hospitals, private homes and birth centres. CNMs provide regular gynaecological check-ups, contraceptive and family planning services and also provide neonatal care during the first 28 days of life .
• Certified midwives (CM) - They provide a range of primary healthcare services to women from adolescence to beyond menopause. They work in hospitals, health clinics, birth centres, private homes and obstetrician's consulting rooms.
• Certified professional midwives (CPM) - They exclusively work in birth centres and private homes and provide care to women during their childbearing years.
• Traditional/unlicensed midwives - These midwives have experience and knowledge which they have obtained informally through the traditions and practices of the communities where they belong to. They provide basic healthcare support and health advice to women during and after pregnancy and usually work in rural areas where medical attention isn't available .
Image ref: www.uchicagomedicine.org
Benefits Of Having A Midwife
According to the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, women who gave births at hospitals with midwives by their side were less likely to have Caesarean deliveries (C-section) .
Another 2018 research study published in the Journal of Pregnancy showed that mothers who gave birth with a midwife birth attendant are more likely to increase the duration of exclusive breastfeeding , . This is because they have more knowledge of the breastfeeding benefits and have a high self-confidence when it comes to managing breastfeeding problems.
Another study showed that planned home births attended by a midwife decreased the rates of perinatal deaths compared to planned hospital births attended by a midwife or a physician .
Image ref: docmode.org
Role Of Midwives During Pregnancy
A midwife will usually do the following things during prenatal care: 
• Will check the health, growth and position of your baby.
• Give advice on routine health check-ups and tests.
• Give health advice and offer support.
• Will guide you to prepare for labour and birth.
A midwife will usually do the following things during labour and birth:
• Will give encouragement and emotional support .
• Monitor your progress and the baby's heartbeat and other signs.
• Will help reduce your labour pain or arrange a doctor to administer it.
• Get extra medical help if needed.
A midwife will usually do the following things during postnatal period:
• Assisting you with breastfeeding.
• Teach you how to bathe your baby and change the nappies.
• Will conduct some routine health tests.
Image ref: ourmomentoftruth.com
If you are pregnant and you want a natural birth with less medical intervention, such as episiotomy, labour induction, foetal monitoring etc., you may consider having a midwife. Also, if you want the emotional and practical support that midwives provide, you may consider having one. However, make sure that the midwife is under the direct supervision of a doctor.