If I were to introduce myself as a midwife, what would your first impression be? Someone who delivers babies? Someone who check blood pressures and weighs babies?
The word midwife actually has its origins far deeper within history that you may imagine. It is believed to have developed from the Middle English word mid-, meaning together with, and -wif, meaning woman. Over generations, this meaning has been lost and modern usage of the word refers to typical NHS midwifery care of women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth.
Since The Midwives Act of 1902, in order for someone in England to call themselves a midwife, they were legally required to complete a midwifery education programme and become certified. Whilst this was a crucial step in protecting women’s safety, it was also the beginning of the demise of the wider role of the midwife.
Every birth is the UK must be attended by a midwife, and this is something to be incredibly proud of, and must never be lost. As midwives we are autonomous health professionals, capable of making decisions about women’s care, speaking up for them on their behalf, detecting complications in both mother and infant, and promoting childbirth as a normal life event.
However, I strongly believe that women need the caring and expert support of a midwife throughout their childbearing years, irrelevant of whether they have or have not had children. Midwives have a role in the promotion of reproductive health, both physically and psychologically, from a practical and educational perspective. This care should include preventative health counselling and education as well as having a loving, hands on approach to women’s health.
As a midwife I proudly work in partnership with women to promote reproductive self-care, act as an advocate so their voices can be heard and nurture them to speak up for themselves. As a PMDD survivor, I know the dark loneliness that comes with this debilitating condition. I have first-hand experience of living with reproductive ill-health, and have made very difficult, yet hugely empowering decisions.
I have over ten years of midwifery experience and knowledge, and yet found the biological and scientific aspects of PMDD difficult to understand. I have a good working knowledge of the female reproductive system including my natural menstrual cycle, yet was frequently surprised and confused by my body. I came to the conclusion that if I struggled to understand PMDD, then how can those without such knowledge be expected to ask for the care they so desperately need.
This is why I proudly call myself a whole-woman midwife. I have looked inwards and found the reason I gravitated towards midwifery. It was not to be present at the birth of a child, but to facilitate the holistic birth of the strong, powerful woman we all have inside of us. It is my wish, that as a midwife I can stand up for those who have yet to find their voice, to support women in all phases of reproductive health, and to empower women worldwide to own their right to health and well-being.
International Confederation of Midwives: Definition of the Midwife
Royal College of Midwives (2008) The Midwives Act 1902: A historical landmark