Midwifery Care

What is a Midwife

A midwife is a health professional who supports you during pregnancy, labour and birth. Midwives can also help you care for you and your baby in the first few weeks following the birth.

The word Midwife simply means ‘with woman’ and midwives take this very seriously. A midwife is not only a maternity care specialist with the knowledge and capability to ensure the best health outcomes for you and your baby; they are YOUR advocate, helping to achieve the experience YOU want. They provide ‘woman-centred care’ throughout your pregnancy and birth, placing you at the centre of everything they do, and tailoring your care to your unique situation. They ensure that you are fully informed and empowered to make your own decisions about your care, and the care of your baby. And they will not abandon you straight after the birth of your baby. They are with you in those intense first six weeks to guide you, provide advice, and ensure you have the best start to motherhood.

Continuity of Care – You Deserve the Best!

Care from a known midwife is often referred to as midwifery continuity of care. Women who have the same midwife caring for them throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and post birth have the opportunity to build a trusting relationship which increases their confidence.

Knowing your midwife – being cared for by, and able to build trust and rapport with, the same midwife, or small group of midwives, during pregnancy (or even pre-conception), through labour and birth, and into the early weeks of mothering – has benefits for mothers, babies and society. It is known as the ‘Gold standard’ of maternity care and the Australian College of Midwives continues to advocate for all women to have access to this model of care.

What are the benefits?

For Women – A woman who receives care from a known midwife is more likely to:

  • have a normal birth; Continuity of Care
  • have a more positive experience of labour and birth
  • be satisfied with her maternity care
  • successfully breastfeed her baby
  • cost the health system less

For Babies – A baby whose mother received care from a known midwife is more likely to:

  • be born at term
  • be born healthy

Learn more about Continuity of Care: a summary of current research on the topic can be found here.

A privately practicing midwife (also termed an endorsed midwife or eligible midwife) is a registered midwife who has an endorsement on their registration. This endorsement allows them to prescribe medicines, order diagnostics (including ultrasounds, blood tests and pregnancy screenings), access the PBS and Medicare, as well as access private insurance.

Private midwifery care can start from the time a woman is aware of the pregnancy and appointments continue throughout the pregnancy, with Medicare rebate available on midwifery fees, and often in the woman’s home. The midwives may order tests and ultrasounds relating to pregnancy, birth and the newborn period and follow up on results, prescribe medications and refer women and babies to obstetricians and paediatricians as needed.

Some midwives only provide antenatal and postnatal care and some will attend births for their private clients, either in a hospital in the same way that women can be admitted under the care of a private obstetrician, or as a home birth. Postpartum appointments will be available for the first six weeks after birth, also as home visits. Each midwife provides slightly different services, so it’s always best to ask your midwife about the services they offer.

All privately practising midwives are required by their regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, to work within specified guidelines and will seek input from a medical practitioner or local health network if complications arise.

  • Personalised care on your terms
  • Hire your midwife directly! No need to apply to a midwifery program and wait until you are nearly 20 weeks pregnant to be accepted and meet your midwife. You can hire your midwife as soon as your pregnancy test is positive.
  • Care in your home or nearby (in clinic rooms) –See a midwife in the comfort of your own home.
  • Midwives can prescribe medications, orders tests and screenings (including ultrasounds, blood tests, prenatal genetic testing, pregnancy screenings)
  • Medicare rebates for antenatal and postnatal appointments

Many privately practising midwives provide continuity of care, meaning you can engage their services from the minute that test turns positive! They can provide pregnancy, labour and birth, and postpartum care up until 6 weeks after your baby’s birth. Some provide homebirthing services, and others offer hospital birth. Some only provide pre-natal and/or postnatal services.

Prices will vary depending on the type of care you are engaging in, and the area in which you live. You will need to discuss fees with your midwife. Antenatal and postnatal visits will incur Medicare rebates, as will hospital birthing. Labour and birth care at home will not incur Medicare rebates at present.

Some private health funds give rebates for private midwifery services. Talk to your health fund to find out more.

Privately Practicing Midwives are insured through MIGA and are insured for all care, except for homebirthing. Midwives providing homebirthing care work within an exemption which will expire end of 2021. It has been extended many times. This exemption allows midwives to provide care for women at home, despite there being no insurance product available. You can access details of this extension from the COAG Communique from March 2018

Options for Pregnancy Care

When you fall pregnant in Australia, there are many options for care you can engage in. These include:

This option allows you to hire a midwife of your choice directly. Your midwife can begin care from the day you get a positive pregnancy test, through labour and birth, up until 6 weeks post-birth. Most care is delivered in your home or at a clinic. You may have the option to birth at home, at a private birthing house or at a hospital under the care of your midwife. Medicare rebates are available. Private health rebates are also available under some health funds.

This model of care is where a small group of public hospital midwives care for you during your pregnancy, labour and birth, and postnatal period. Under this model of care, the bulk of your care is given by one or two midwives called a primary midwife.

This option allows you to become familiar with a small group of midwives, who will also be there for your labour and birth.

This option is similar to midwifery group practice, only it involves a larger team of up to eight midwives who care for you during pregnancy, labour and birth, and postnatal period. This model is often only available in metropolitan areas.

Midwifery care is delivered via a public hospital midwives clinic. You may see the same midwife or group of midwives throughout your pregnancy and your baby will be delivered by whichever midwives and doctors are on duty in the birthing unit. Many hospitals can offer home visits with a midwife if you go home early (usually within 48 hours after the birth).

This model of midwifery care is for women who are having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. If any complications happen, you will be referred to an obstetrician in the hospital.

Depending on the hospital you attend, your antenatal care will take place in a public hospital outpatient clinic or a community clinic. You will go to the same hospital for the birth and care after the birth (postnatal care). Under this model of care, you might see different midwives and doctors at each visit.

Shared antenatal care is where your chosen healthcare professional (GP, midwife, or obstetrician) does most of your antenatal visits. You will go to the hospital for a small number of visits, for the birth or if there are complications.

This option allows you to be cared for by someone you choose and is usually close to home. It is also good if you have particular language or cultural needs.

This model of care allows women to hire a private obstetrician of their choosing. A GP referral is often required. Your birth can happen at a hospital your obstetrician has admitting rights now, either a private or public hospital.

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