1.Can you tell us a bit about your job as an independent midwife? What influenced your decision to choose this career path? (include a few words about your personal as well as business development, please)
I trained at the University of Leeds and at St James’ teaching hospital, I found the experience of being a student in a large tertiary unit really useful but I never felt at home in a hospital environment. Birth is inherently a normal process that can occasionally not go to plan, and I could see the influence of being in a place so unfamiliar to them, the women did not labour in the way we had been taught about.
I got my first job as a midwife on a NHS Homebirth team where I had an opportunity to caseload women and be with them while they had their babies at home. It was so amazing and I knew that I wanted to continue my career caseloading full-time and focusing on being with a woman at her home while she welcomed her baby.
I found that the NHS was not structured to support the women that needed extra support during pregnancy and in the postnatal period and very rarely did women see the same midwife more than once. This meant that they would get conflicting advice and feel really unsure what to do at any point in the journey of welcoming their baby into the world.
I came to independent practice because I wanted to give women this time and couldn’t deny the scientific evidence supporting this type of care, showing a reduction in adverse outcomes for women.
It also is a much more enjoyable way for me to work and to continue to develop my practice.
I moved back up to be closer to family and have been working on building a practice since then, liaising with local birth workers and NHS trusts.
2. What are the benefits of hiring an independent midwife? (what service can be provided and how flexible it is)
Hiring an independent midwife means that you get more time than a 20 minute clinic appointment, usually appointments last for a few hours, so that there is time to go through everything that you might want to talk about surrounding, pregnancy and having your new baby. It also means that I will be there at the birth with you. We will focus on discussing everything around birth so that I know exactly what your ideal birth looks like, what is important to you and dispel any fears you may have ahead of time.
I can do one-off appointments to plan you birth and I can do a full package of care, from booking in until 28 days after birth. I can provide a homebirth service and I can come with you into hospital as a birth support. Independent midwives cannot provide clinical care in a hospital setting unless we are employed by that trust.
Being an independent midwife you have more time to focus on each client that you have so you can spend the time doing research around different things specific to them, so I can come to you with lots of information so that you feel able to make the best choice around your care at each step of the way. I work with you so that you feel empowered to make the right choice for you in every situation.
3. There is a visible trend in various media putting more and more focus on ‘empowering women during labour’. What does this mean to you?
Empowering women to me is the ethos of why I want to be a midwife. I have seen time and time again, the impact of a birth where a woman does not feel empowered to make her own choices. We as midwives are so privileged to support women through a very vulnerable time in their lives where they feel very raw and exposed. Getting it right and having that woman leave the experience feeling like she faced each challenge with a supportive team, confidence in her own ability to know what is best for her baby and her body, is paramount. That is the feeling I want all women to have when they birth their baby. It is a powerful experience and one that will change you forever for the better if you feel empowered so that you are making the care decisions and the healthcare team are simply telling you what your options are, whether it’s choosing to have a blood test or where you want to have your baby.
4. What techniques can be used during labour to offer active support and empowerment?
I like to prepare women before labour so that they know what I can offer on the day and what they can opt to have. If I am caring for someone I have never met before in labour I like to come in and say, “What would you like me to do for you?” because I am a service provider, it is then up to that woman to opt in to each part of the service.
I explain why I am going to monitor the baby in labour and why I might suggest a walk up and down some stairs. You need to feel in control of what service you receive to support the birth that you are having.
Every woman has an amazing intuition and I consider listening to that as a vital part of assessing the birth and its progress.
Overall I like to be a cheerleader for the woman, and sometimes that looks like sitting in the next room and listening intently to each change of labour and sometimes it is massaging her back through each surge and reassuring her that she is safe.