Midwifery has been in existence since the inception of childbearing. In the early years, midwives usually have a period of training with an experienced midwife or physician, or might just be called up by a neighbor or family member to help out in conducting delivery during labor.
While in some countries the practice is being carried out by religious centers put up to aid in the delivery process. For example in Nigeria, there are birth centers established by churches, or the traditionalist to conduct delivery for pregnant women.
Eventually, formal training programs were organized to train and equip birth attendants with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct safe delivery, this is to regulate the practice and reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality due to unsafe birth delivery practices occurring with unskilled attendants and obsolete equipment and delivery centers.
Midwifery is defined as “skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate care for childbearing women, newborn infants and families across the continuum from prepregnancy, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and the early weeks of life”. (WHO)
Midwifery is the health science and health profession that deals with antepartum (pregnancy), intrapartum (childbirth), and the postpartum period(after delivery) including care of the newborn, in addition to the sexual and reproductive health of women throughout their lives
With recent development in health science, midwifery is being integrated into other healthcare professional education, these professionals receive training and become well equipped to conduct safe delivery thereby preventing complications like hemorrhage, sepsis, and even handling these complications if they arise.
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While the integration of midwifery into other aspects of health is favored in some nations, some still promote the collaboration of midwives with other qualified health professionals like physicians and nurses. For example transferring or referral of pregnant women to tertiary institutions for prompt intervention in case of any obstetric emergency.
Who Is A Midwife?
A midwife is a person who, having been regularly admitted to a midwifery educational program, duly recognized in the country in which it is located, has completed the prescribed course of studies in midwifery and has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery. (ICM 2005)
“Midwives are uniquely able to provide essential services to women and newborns in even the most difficult humanitarian, fragile and conflict-affected settings” stated WHO.
This care includes preventive measures, health promotion services like antenatal education and preparation for parenthood, promotion of normal birth, the early detection of complications in mother and child. They also ensure that both the mother and child have access to medical care or other relevant service and the carrying out of emergency interventions and may also extend to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health, and child care.
Scope of Practice
A midwife can practice in any setting including the home, community, clinics hospitals, or health care units with a focus on pregnancy, Childbirth, Postpartum, Newborn Care, and Reproductive health.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Midwife
The following are some of the core duties and responsibilities of a Midwife;
- Deliver the necessary care, supervision, and guidance to women during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.
- Give full antenatal care, including screening tests in the hospital, community, and home.
- Offer counseling and advice before and after screening and tests.
- Conduct deliveries and care for the newborn infant.
- Provide support and advice on the daily care of the baby, breastfeeding, bathing, and supplementary feeds.
- Manage complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
- Identify high-risk pregnancies and refer to doctors and other medical specialists as appropriate.
- Provide necessary support and advice following events such as stillbirth, termination, miscarriage, neonatal abnormality, and neonatal death.
- Educate and help make informed decisions on different methods of family planning.
- Supervise the provision of primary health care within the community.
- Counsel and educate women, the family, and the community, in relevant areas of pregnancy and reproductive health such as parenthood preparation, preparation for childbirth, family planning, hygiene, and nutrition.
- Follow guidelines and established health center policies for procedures, and services rendered.
- Help to decrease infant mortality rates and the maternal mortality rate plus pregnancy-related sufferings.
- Educating student midwives in relevant practices.
- Writing and maintenance of health and patients records.
How To Become A Midwife
This is a basic guideline to becoming a midwife, however, different country might have their standards for training and licensing of midwives. Here is an overview of how to become a midwife:
- Enroll in a midwifery educational program, kindly note that this program should be recognized in your country by the appropriate regulatory body.
- Complete the course of studies in midwifery.
- Acquire the qualifications to be registered and legally licensed to practice in your country.
- Practice as a midwife.
How To Become A Midwife In Nigeria
This is a step by step process of becoming a midwife in Nigeria, to become a midwife in Nigeria,
- You will need to meet the entry requirement of five credits in English, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry in not more than two (2) sittings
- You do not need Jamb(UTME) results to enroll in the school of the midwifery program
- To enroll, you need to obtain a form from the accredited institution for the School Of Basic Midwifery.
- Complete the entrance examinations, physical interviews, and medical tests after which you will be admitted if you meet the selection criteria.
- The school of midwifery program is a three (3) year Basic Midwifery training program.
- Upon successful completion of the program, you will be awarded a diploma in General Midwifery and a license to practice as a Registered Midwife (RM) will be issued after you’ve successfully passed the professional exams by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.
In some countries, midwifery is a medical profession that is known for its independent and direct specialized education, it should therefore not be confused with the medical specialty you can go for after completing a previous general training.
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This article is written by Mayowa Racheal Popoola, Nurse, Writer