I had a visit from one of the midwives yesterday for my fortnightly check. I’m fine, the baby’s fine and, most importantly, she’s lying with her head down and her spine to the front. Hallelujah. Here’s hoping that she doesn’t do something crazy like wriggle herself into a breech position in the next couple of weeks.

This is going to sound bonkers but, prior to the pregnancy, I had no idea about the importance of midwifery care. I think I assumed that I would be looked after (as such) by my GP. In fact, I don’t really know what I assumed. I knew that I would have a couple of scans, and that someone would probably want to prod me around a bit to make sure that everything was normal. I think I thought that a midwife would show up at some point during labour and that would be about it. There’s something slightly alarming about the fact that I could reach my grand old age and be so thoroughly ignorant about the actual ins and outs of pregnancy. They certainly didn’t teach it to me at school, that’s for sure.

What I’ve discovered is that they’re actually right at the heart of your care and, I’m guessing, the quality of that care will be largely dependent on your relationship with them. We are in something of a fortunate position. The midwives from our local maternity hospital (St Thomas’s) are affiliated with my GP’s practice. This means that, over the course of the last few months, I have met all of the women on that team and, therefore, the woman who will actually deliver my baby. The advantages to this are huge. Not only have we been able to get to know them, but they’ve shared a real breadth of knowledge and advice with us: their personal opinion, ‘standard’ practice, hospital protocol etc. That’s been invaluable because, as any pregnant woman soon discovers, opinions and procedures can differ wildly.

I always find that I come away from a meeting with them feeling enormously calm and reassured. Confident, even. Given that pregnancy and birth is such an overwhelming prospect, that reassurance is worth its weight in gold. I never thought that anyone could actually make me look forward to labour, but they’ve managed to achieve that. They really have demystified the whole thing. And that’s not to say that I necessarily agree with everything that they say. Because of the nature of their job they are very supportive of active labour, so-called ‘natural’ childbirth, breastfeeding and all of those things. Some of the issues that are raised during discussions with them can be quite polarising and even contentious (just raise the question of administering a drug like pethidine, for example).

There’s a real risk that you can end up being steamrollered into a type of labour and birth that you don’t necessarily want simply because the preferences of the hospital or obstetrician are presented to you as necessities or ‘just the way it’s done’ … and probably at a time when you are least prepared to have an intellectual debate about the whys and wherefores! I’ve come to the conclusion that the midwives really are the people that will help to ensure that this doesn’t happen. They are your front line allies and they are there to support and encourage you. However your midwifery care is set up, I would definitely recommend that you have as open and questioning a relationship with them as you can. It can only be to your benefit.

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