Public perception of midwives’ role in maternity care sparks public awareness campaign

New mum with midwifeResearch revealing public misconceptions around the role of midwives has triggered a public awareness campaign to help women make more informed choices around their healthcare options. 

A study from the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre and School of Nursing and Midwifery of the University of South Australia found more than 50 per cent of respondents believed a woman needed to see a doctor during pregnancy and after the baby was born, yet less than a third believed it was necessary to see a doctor during labour and birth.

Lead midwifery academic, Dr Lois McKellar says these survey results indicate the pubic associate midwives with birth, but do not understand the full suite of services and benefits they can provide during pregnancy and once a baby is born.

“We want the public to better understand what midwives do, there is a public misconception that they are considered mostly as assistants during labour, rather than lead care providers before, during and after birth,” Dr McKellar says.

“This lack of understanding impacts on women’s capacity to make an informed choice around their care options and may have hindered the uptake of midwifery-led models of care.”

Midwifery-led care is a model where women receive care from a known midwife and Dr McKellar says multiple evidence-based national and international research studies have demonstrated the enormous benefits of this model, including less intervention, less premature births, increased satisfaction, as well as a decreased overall cost to health services.

“Nationwide, only 2.2 per cent of births occur through this model, despite numerous national and state service reviews recommending an increase in more woman-centred services,” Dr McKellar says. 

“South Australia has been a forerunner in the area, with about 6-7 per cent of women accessing care from a known midwife through midwifery group practice that is offered through the state’s major public hospitals. 

“One of the key advantages of this model, is that midwives get to know the woman prior to labour and they will understand her needs. For example, if the midwife understands the woman is prone to anxiety, they can provide suitable care when it’s required – whether that’s during the birth or as the new mum settles in at home with her new baby.” 

Dr McKellar says in the United Kingdom the NHS recently mandated that every woman has a known midwife and she believes emulating this model would have huge benefits here in Australia. 

The awareness campaign now underway in South Australia was developed by the Australian College of Midwives and funded by the SA Department of Premier and Cabinet. 

“As the public develop a better understanding on the benefits of care from a known midwife, it’s hoped that more women will openly seek midwifery-led care as a standard care option,” Dr McKellar says.
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Pictured: New mum Karolina Cruz and midwife Siobhan Lucas.
Contact for interview:  Dr Lois McKellar phone 0424450333 |  email lois.mckellar@unisa.edu.au
Media: Candy Gibson (08) 8302 0961 | mobile 0434 605 142 |  email: candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au

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