Wednesday, July 04, 2012


"Within the [ ] health services financing structure, there is no room for financing the disutility of 24/7 availablity." [Mariel Croon, Human Rights in Childbirth conference, 2012]
One unavoidable feature of midwifery practice in primary maternity care is that a midwife needs to be accessible to a woman 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week, except, of course, if the birth is a medically scheduled and managed event.  If the midwife and the woman have agreed prior to the birth that they will work together when that time comes, that means the midwife is under a considerable degree of commitment.

I have often pondered the wastefulness, from an economic/time management point of view, of caseload midwifery. Of course I can understand the bean counters, who want midwives to be rostered to hospital wards, for shifts that can be predicted. Of course I understand why inductions of labour happen in hospital maternity systems, as managers attempt to match peak activity periods in the hospital with the times when adequate staff have been booked.  Of course I understand why midwives choose to work shifts in hospitals.

At present I am waiting for three babies: one 'due' last week, one this week, and the third in a week or so. Babies in my practice often cluster, and I can't worry about it because it is outside my control.  I must see each woman as an individual, and not allow stress about the time of onset of spontaneous labour to complicate our relationship.

The quote above, and particularly the phrase  "disutility of 24/7 availablity" caught my attention when I read it. 
The dictionary meaning is:
a. the shortcomings of a commodity or activity in satisfying human wants
b. the degree to which a commodity or activity fails to satisfy human wants
[Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003]


My decision to work as a midwife, placing the 'activity' - the needs and wishes of a birthing woman above my need to 'satisfy human wants' - be able to plan my time for work and play and sleep and whatever else - is a decision on principle, not on economics.  The principle relates to my understanding of the unique trust relationship that can be established between a midwife and a woman, enabling the woman to proceed down the often unpredictable and challenging path that leads to the unassisted, unmedicated birth of her child. 

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