Who is the midwife?

A midwife is a person who, having been regularly admitted to a midwifery educational programme, duly recognised in the country in which it is located, has successfully completed the prescribed course of studies in midwifery and has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practise midwifery.

The midwife is recognised as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice 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.

Adopted by the International Confederation of Midwives Council meeting, 19th July, 2005, Brisbane, Australia Supersedes the ICM “Definition of the Midwife” 1972 and its amendments of 1990.

The midwife in Belgium…

The midwife is an expert on pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period. She is medically trained and is the expert of choice for providing support and guidance for normal pregnancies, births and the postpartum period. Increasingly midwives offer care during the pregnancy. You can also ask the midwife about matters relating to fertility and family planning.

During pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period the midwife monitors the health of both mother and child. The midwife attends a thorough, dedicated course (of three years in Flanders; of four years in the Walloon provinces) that gives her the medical knowledge and expertise to carry out the required examinations and give advice. Even when the pregnancy does not proceed smoothly because of complications or when it perhaps ends in a miscarriage, the midwife will provide empathic care and support. If necessary she will refer you to a gynaecologist. The midwife works to bring about optimal cooperation with other healthcare professionals to ensure that you always receive the best possible care. Even if the pregnancy or childbirth ends in an unexpected way and the cradle remains empty, the midwife can come to mean a great deal for you. The midwife can also provide extra care when you – planned or otherwise – take on the care of a child or if you are the only carer.

Apart from this the midwife gives you guidance and support during the birth itself. The midwife will help you regardless of whether you choose for home birth, birth in a hospital or in a maternity home.

The midwife provides medical care after the birth and gives support and information to the (brand new) parent or parents in the postpartum period, including advice and instruction on breastfeeding.

The midwife takes a holistic approach to pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. This means that in addition to medical examinations and tests she pays attention to the psychological, emotional and social aspects of the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period. The midwife is thus not only a medical expert, she provides guidance to future parents by giving them information and support. Apart from this the midwife is a person in whom you can confide, a source of warmth and tranquillity: a valuable asset during this very special period in your life!

For more information on midwives in Flanders, go to www.vlov.be and www.nvkvv.be.
For midwives in the Walloon provinces go to www.sage-femme.be and www.sages-femmes.be.