The choices of the next generation of midwives will impact those available to the next generation of mothers. By Ali El Moghraby.
Andrea Robertson has just qualified as a midwife. She sites her journey from being a staff nurse to becoming an NHS midwife as ‘a calling’. She continues to be in awe of the profession she has spent the last two years studying towards.
“Every day I admire and respect the experienced midwives when they are at work,” she says. “Midwives care so much for the women and families who come into their labour wards. They work really hard to give those women the birth that they want.”
Andrea is excited about the support she is going to give to women and she has a plan for how she wants to achieve that. “I am looking forward to gaining experience in the NHS,” she says, “but I think I will become an independent midwife in the future.”
Her reason for this is that the NHS is not able to give women one to one care. “For example, when a woman has queued behind 40 others to have her baby weighed and her blood pressure checked, she’s not likely to be comfortable talking about her feelings to a stranger,” explains Andrea. “But if she knows her midwife, it’s easier to say ‘I am feeling strange today’ or ‘can I just sit down and have a chat with you’ if that’s what she needs.”
For Andrea, the increasingly litigious nature of midwifery makes her uncomfortable when she thinks about the effect it has on the level of medical intervention seen in labour wards. Having spent six weeks in Africa where mother and infant mortality rates are higher than in the UK, she is able to put the impact of litigation on the medicalisation of midwifery here into a bit of perspective. “In Africa, it is accepted that women and babies can die in childbirth,” says Andrea. “While no-one should die in labour, our culture of needing to blame someone if the worst does happen means that midwives are questioning themselves rather than having faith in their own judgement. So midwives are more likely to focus on what could go wrong and send a woman for a procedure than trust their decisions and give the women time to birth her baby herself,” she says.
As Andrea embarks on what she sees as her destiny, the future of the profession lies in her and her peers’ hands. How many choose to turn their back on the NHS and become independent midwives remains to be seen.
By Ali El Moghraby