Understanding your midwife and health visitor’s role
Your midwife and health visitor are your first points of call for all things pregnancy and new baby related, be sure you know how they can help
Midwives as you will probably know by now are specialists in pregnancy and birth, but you may not know it translates as ‘with woman’ – and they are.
Their role is to look after you and your baby, during labour and birth, and for up to 28 days after delivery. If everything in the pregnancy is straightforward, they can provide all your care.
In the NHS there are hospital and community midwives. Hospital midwives are based in an obstetric or consultant unit, a birth centre or midwife led unit, and they staff the antenatal clinic, labour ward and postnatal wards. Community midwives tend to work in teams and provide continuity of care. In pregnancy they either see you at home or in the clinic and they are available for a home birth if this option is suitable. They also provide postnatal care.
Many hospitals are changing the way that midwives work so you may find that you are more likely to see the same small team of midwives in the community and during the birth as hospitals work towards continuity of care pathways.
Your relationship with your midwife should be based on mutual trust and respect. You need to work together and they should support and respect your choices. This will help to make you feel safe and enable you to relax, which in turn allows the labour hormones to work.
Delivering a baby is one of the most powerful, challenging and amazing things that you will ever do - having a medical professional on the same page as you every step of the way will make all the difference.
Health visitors are qualified nurses or midwives who have undertaken further training and qualifications in child health, health promotion, public health and education.
Your health visitor helps you to learn about being a parent, and supports you in your job of raising a healthy child. You may meet them before the end of your pregnancy but this isn’t always the case.
Your care - and that of your baby up to the age of five - will be handed over from the midwife to the health visitor 10 days after the birth. During this visit, your health visitor will ask about you and the baby, the childbirth, and how you are feeling and coping. They will also explain about your six-week postnatal check, getting your baby weighed and early immunisations.
If you have any issues, concerns or questions, the health visitor can help. They can advise on sleep habits, breastfeeding, healthy eating, and other minor illnesses or health fears you may have for you or your baby. If you feel you may be suffering from postnatal depression, talk to your health visitor. Those early days - indeed years - can be challenging as well as rewarding and they are there to help. When you bring your baby to the clinic to be weighed it can be a good opportunity to meet other mums and some clinics offer baby massage classes or similar.
You will meet the health visitor again at the clinic when your baby is about a month old and they may visit your home again between six and eight weeks to check all is well with you and that the baby is thriving. There are various other developmental checks and immunisations over the next couple of years and they will advise you of those.