What is a Midwife?

The word ‘midwife’ is from Anglo-Saxon words; mid = with, wif = woman. In English ‘midwife’ means someone who provides continuity of care to a woman and her baby. This is way from pregnancy through the postpartum period. In French, the term for midwife is ‘sage-femme’, a wise woman providing this continuity of care.

International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Definition of a Midwife

A midwife is a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education programme. Duly recognized in the country in which they are in or located. It is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.

Jane Palmer using a fetal doppler

Scope of Practice

Midwives are responsible and accountable professionals. They work in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice. This is during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period. To conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and the infant.

This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, the accessing of medical care or other appropriate assistance and the carrying out of emergency measures. The midwife has an important task in health counselling and education, not only for the woman but also within the family and the community. This work should involve antenatal education and preparation for parenthood and may extend to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health and child care. A midwife may practise in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics or health units. Revised and adopted by ICM Council June 15, 2011 Due for review 2017 Website: www.internationalmidwives.org

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