Getting the most from your midwife
Supporting women in pregnancy, labour and within the postnatal period is the profession of the midwife. But in mothers’ group, online forums and play-date coffee chats, when women discuss the relationship with their midwife you can expect a mixed reaction.
From the mother’s point of view, a lot of the tension in the relationship with her midwife comes from a problem of conflicting advice. Different midwives will offer different advice on subjects such as breastfeeding, which leaves women confused about what is the right thing to do.
From the midwife’s point of view, conflict can arise when a patient or her support person misinterprets aspects of the birth process, creating confusion in the birthing suite. In this instance, it is the midwife’s responsibility to communicate effectively what is happening as the labour progresses and the implications of her actions for mum and baby.
Midwives also experience problems when a patient challenges a specific hospital guideline or policy. In these instances, as much as they might like to bend the rules, the midwife must follow procedure.
Another source of conflict stems from the fact that people, in general, do not have a realistic picture of what to expect in birth. We live in communities where often the postnatal woman is holding their baby and it is the first baby they have ever held in their life.
So how can women expecting a baby get the best out of their midwife?
Getting the best from your midwife during labour
Communication is key. Let the midwife know your questions, fears, pain-relief preferences and potential concerns in the first stages of labour or even before the birth commences, but keep an open mind. The process to meet your baby is different for every birth, every baby and every pregnancy. You can never know exactly how events will unfold, which is why an open mind is so vital.
It’s also important to have a support partner who can communicate your needs and wishes if you are not able to do so. Think about who is your best option for a support partner and make sure they know what you want. You may also consider hiring a doula for that extra support.
Most importantly, be realistic. Labour and birth is painful – sorry, but it is. Listen to the midwife, who should empower you to get you through it.
If you have suffered from sexual abuse, anxiety, PND, mental illness or a previous traumatic birth, please let the staff know – the experience of birth can bring up feelings that are buried deep within and we need to know about them so we can support you.
In the postnatal period
Asking your midwife to support you through a breastfeed, baby bath or while settling your baby can give you confidence in caring for your newborn. Remember, though, that while it’s good to be open to advice, you should trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right to you, ask about other options.
If you don’t wish to breastfeed or do skin-to-skin contact with your baby, or have any other specific beliefs about how to care for your baby, please let your midwife know so he or she can pass it on to the next midwife. By giving them the opportunity to make a record of it in your patient notes, you won’t feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do.
Don’t let your visitors stay for hours while you’re recovering in hospital: short visits will be less tiring for you and the baby. That means more time to rest, work with your midwife to learn about caring for your little one and more opportunities to connect with your baby. Remember, there’ll be plenty of time for longer visits once you go home.
If you need to talk about the birth or have questions about what happened, do so with the staff who were with you at the birth so they can give reasoning behind choices or events so it makes sense to you.
Dealing with conflicting advice
Here are five ways to avoid the problem of conflicting advice:
- Find a midwife you connect with or trust and become her BFF. Midwives love their job because they can follow a family from early pregnancy right through to the birth and visit them at home. We want to help you.
- Trust your instincts. Pick the advice that works and disregard the advice that doesn’t work.
- The main things to concentrate on in the first few days after birth are the basics of breastfeeding/bottle feeding, learning how to resettle your bubba and connecting with your baby. Work on those until you feel comfortable.
- If breastfeeding problems arise, ask the midwife to write down the advice/guidelines. If you feel you need to, you can ask to speak to a lactation consultant.
- Research the birth process in the antenatal period properly and don’t listen to everyone’s horror birth stories. Just because your mother, sister or neighbour had a terrible birth experience doesn’t mean you will.
Remember, a good midwife is someone that empowers you to have the confidence to care for your baby and will be a valuable support in the early days of motherhood.
Finally, remember that midwives are doing everything in their power to help you deliver your baby safely. It may not always go the way you planned, but a healthy mum and baby is the main goal.
This article was written by Lisa Berson for Kidpsot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz