We all know midwives are extremely busy with a baby being born every minute, but do you know exactly what they get up to? Now in their third and final year of their BSc (Hons) Midwifery course, Cydney Land and Ellie Thomas spoke to us to give you the inside scoop...
1. It bugs us when people think we just deliver babies
Obviously delivering babies is an important part of the role but we get involved in so much more than that! We’re all about the holistic care of women, not just taking care of baby. We can act as a social worker or health visitor, be involved in health promotion, deal with the discharge of women and their babies, assist with the transition to parenthood, support the mental health of women and even give advice on subsequent pregnancies. So we’re certainly not one-trick ponies!
2. We’re not nurses!
The public tend to think about nursing and midwifery as the same profession but that’s not true. We learn to prescribe and administer drugs and perform some roles that used to be done by doctors. Nurses generally deal with people when they’re ill but midwives deal with women who are generally well but just happen to be pregnant.
3. We’re amazed by the female body
Pregnancy is not an illness! Women’s bodies are made to be able to adapt to pregnancy and to be able to give birth.
4. We do the jobs you think doctors do!
From performing a suture (sewing up tears that can occur during labour) to performing the NIPE (Newborn and Infant Physical Examination) and discharging new mothers and their babies, we’re trained to become skilled medical professionals. In fact, as midwifery students we get to take our NIPE examination during our course to make sure we’re ready to do the job.
5. TV makes childbirth look more terrifying than it is
Women often come to us terrified about giving birth – and it’s no surprise given the traumatic circumstances often shown when characters from soaps give birth. There’s always screaming, crying and sometimes copious amounts of blood. Our experience of births is quite different to that. It’s not uncommon for a woman to be focused on doing the job her body wants to do and just push through with relatively little fuss, so it’s not the horror show you might imagine!
6. You can have a life as well as being a student midwife
People think it’s impossible to do part-time work or socialise alongside such intense study, but that’s not true. If you manage your time really well you can do both of these things. We’re both student ambassadors working at events like Open Days and helping out with the interview days for people who’ve applied to be midwives.
7. It’s not just babies that are born…
…we get to see parents be ‘born’ too! We see that transition from adult to parent – and it’s magical! You get an insight into the relationship between couples and then see them turn into a family as they become parents. New mothers cry and that’s no surprise but often the fathers get really emotional too and that’s what really gets us so often the whole delivery room is crying!
8. If you're squeamish, that will soon pass
You might worry that you’re a little bit sensitive to be a midwife but you get over your squeamishness very quickly – we did! Blood, baby poo and breast milk all become normal (and usually end up on our uniforms!)
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9. Women do poo during labour – and that’s a good thing!
Women are often scared about the idea that they might poo themselves while giving birth but we like it! Not in a crude way (although nothing is taboo to us!) but it is usually a sign that the woman is pushing in the right way!
10. There are sad aspects to being a midwife
Not all births have a positive outcome; stillbirths are particularly sad. It’s not just stillbirths though that we have to deal with. There’s other aspects that make us emotional that you might not think about, such as the woman who wants to breastfeed but can’t because they’ve had a mastectomy, or the couple who’ve been trying for years and miscarry following IVF. Some of the situations we see are heart-breaking.
11. Our job is intense
We get to know a lot about someone incredibly quickly and care about every single one of the women we help. We go home thinking about them and check-in with our colleagues or the mother themselves to see how they’re doing even when they’re not in our charge anymore. And the women appreciate this too – they know we see them as people not just a patient number.
12. We don’t force people to breastfeed
We find there’s a lot of negativity in the media about midwives bullying women into breastfeeding but it’s just not true! We won’t deny that breastfeeding is best for the baby but if a woman can’t or really doesn’t want to then we won’t force it on anyone. We can become BFI (Baby Friendly Initiative) accredited as part of our course and this teaches us to support women whatever type of feeding they choose to do.
13. We wish people would stop having sex at Christmas!
Seriously people – use protection! We’re run off our feet during September and early October every single year when the number of births spikes. The numbers are also higher in the spring and early summer as people seem to plan to have a baby in the nicer months. Babies born in December and January are definitely fewer!
14. We cry a lot – but in a good way
Some births just give us all the feels! The women don’t seem to mind as they know it means we care.
15. We’re full-time
Between long shifts at the hospital and full-time hours when we’re at uni, we basically do a full-time job without being paid (it’ll be worth it when we’re qualified though!)
16. We have to deliver 40 babies to qualify as a midwife…
…and see 100 women for antenatal care, 100 women for post-natal care, complete experience on both gynaecological and neo-natal wards plus work with midwives in specialist areas like bereavement and safeguarding. We really have done and learnt a lot!
17. Most babies are born at night
Mammals instinctively give birth at night. In the hours of darkness we produce more oxytocin which stimulates labour and our stress hormones are lower. In the delivery room we try to adapt the environment to what the woman needs and that often includes dimming the lights as well as playing music of their choice.
18. You’ll get into positions you didn’t think possible!
Not all women give birth on a bed. Some are on the floor, some are in the birthing pool. It all depends on the woman. But no matter what, we have to be there working around whatever position is best for the woman. We’ve become very good contortionists during our training!
19. Men can be – and are – midwives
We have males training to be midwives on our course and they’re not called ‘midhusbands’. The word ‘midwife’ means ‘with woman’ and midwives – male and female – are with the pregnant woman right the way through their pregnancy and after the birth.
20. We wouldn’t swap our career choice for any other job
Despite the long hours and the hard work, we love what we do. We get to see and be part of little miracles everyday – what could be better than that?
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