Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Why do private midwives need hospital visiting access?

Yes, I gave birth to my four children in hospital. This is #1
In a perfect world, would every woman want to give birth in the privacy of her own home?


In a perfect world, there would be no sickness, no pain, no decay, corruption ... no need for hospitals either.

But we don't live in a perfect world.  No matter what steps we take to optimise health of mother and baby; to optimise the positioning of the baby in the womb for a normal birth; to prevent infection; to prevent social disorders that result from smoking, substance abuse, and obesity ... no matter ... the midwife is always watching and observing in case complication or illness arises.

Home is a wonderful place for birth when the woman and baby are well, and progressing normally.  At any time the decision to stay at home may need to be reviewed.

Some people may tell me I am being driven by fear in saying this.  We in the 'natural birth' realm see slogans such as 'Trust Birth'.  I hear midwives speaking of the physiological processes in birth as though they come with an iron-clad guarantee.

No! and No!

Don't get me wrong.  Birth is an amazing, awesome process - most of the time.  Natural physiological processes in birth and breastfeeding, together with the cocktail of hormones, and the physical and psychological factors that can influence these processes are truly wonderful - most of the time.

There is no better way for most than the natural process.  God the creator made the woman's body as well as the man's, mysteriously in the image of God, and said it is good.  That is a profound truth.  The balancing truth is that today we are able to protect and save life, through medical intervention, to a greater degree than ever before.

That's where hospitals come in to my thinking today.

I'm not talking now about a perfect world.  However, a better world is a reasonable goal.

There will always be women who need or choose to give birth in hospital.   These women ought (in a better world) to be able to use the services of a known and trusted midwife in hospital.  That option is not commonly available in the world we live in today.  Some women are fortunate that they have a wonderful midwife allocated to care for them in their labour, or even in a caseload/know your midwife program.  But the usual feature of birth in Australia today is that a woman is attended in labour by a stranger - someone she has not met prior to coming into labour.  Women with financial resources and private health insurance might have an obstetrician who has provided their antenatal care, with whom they feel a bond of trust, but that doctor is not in continuous attendance - the midwife/stranger is. 

In a better world, women would be able to engage their own midwife, or small group of midwives, who are committed to providing continuity of care that spans the community and the hospital.

In a better world, midwives would be able to choose to work either privately or as employees of a hospital or health service; either as shift workers, or with a personal caseload, or in one of the multitude of hybrid models of care that are designed to meet the individual needs of the women as well as the midwives.  These options should provide reasonable rates of pay and conditions.  Midwives can only do our job well when we are in good shape ourselves.  We teach women to be intuitive about the needs of their children and themselves - we ought, in a better world, to apply the same thinking to ourselves.

The journey to maternity reform has been an uphill one.  I am hoping that it won't be long before we see a pathway to a better world of maternity care.

Thankyou for your comments.

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