This article focus on the reasons why women might choose to use an independent or private midwife.
An Independent Midwife is a fully qualified and insured midwife who has chosen to practice outside of the NHS. Like all midwives in the UK, Independent Midwives are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This is the body that regulates the profession. They must revalidate with the NMC every 3 years.
Independent Midwives often choose to work in this way because they have strong beliefs about how to provide quality midwifery care. These are focussed on the meaning of midwife as being ‘with woman’. They value the importance of pregnancy and childbirth in women’ lives. As such, their expertise lies in providing a holistic service. This is built on a deep understanding of the normal processes of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
The benefits of an independent midwife
Continuity of carer
Seeing the same midwife throughout your pregnancy, having her there during your labour and birth and then having her support during the early days with your new baby is really valuable. When your midwife has a deep understanding of what’s important to you, she is best able to help you achieve it. When you have a deep trust in her, you feel safe, which is a vital aspect of a positive pregnancy and birth. There is research evidence which shows that women prefer this type of care. It is also associated with improved outcomes, such as fewer premature births. It makes a big difference to breastfeeding, as having support from the same person during the early days is really effective in helping you to overcome any challenges you might face.
More, longer antenatal and postnatal appointments
An Independent Midwife will visit you at home for all of your appointments. These are unhurried and can take as long as you want or need them to. They can be booked for times that suit you, which might be in the evening or at weekends. Your partner and/or birth partner can be as involved as you want them to be. Antenatally, this means you can discuss whatever issues are important to you. There is plenty of time to help you prepare for the birth. Once your baby is here, daily visits for around the first 5 days are the norm. This means you get great support with breastfeeding and any other challenges you may be facing.
More time means that you and your Independent Midwife can have in-depth conversations about any decisions you have to make or any complications that may develop during your pregnancy. Maybe there are concerns about your baby’s growth, or your health. If that happens, your Independent Midwife will provide you with information and can support you at at any hospital appointments you go to. So you will feel able to make truly informed choices that are right for you. She will be your advocate and support you whatever you decide.
Expertise in normal birth, particularly home birth, including in less common situations
If you are planning a home birth, an Independent Midwife can be the only health care professional you see during your pregnancy, birth and after your baby is born. This appeals to women who wish to avoid medicalising their pregnancy and birth and would prefer not to go to clinics or hospitals. Independent Midwives have a deep respect for, and understanding of, how to enable a straightforward birth. This includes less common situations such as home breech birth and VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).
Quality care when you choose a hospital birth, or when circumstances change
Independent Midwives also provide midwifery care to women who are planning a hospital birth. This includes a planned Caesarean birth, or when circumstances change and you decide that home birth is no longer the best option. In these circumstances, your Independent Midwife can either provide just antenatal and postnatal care, or she can also go to hospital with you. She won’t be able to provide midwifery care in a hospital environment (due to issues with hospital policies and insurance). But she can take on a supportive role during your labour and birth.
When the NHS isn’t an option
Some women choose an Independent Midwife because they are coming to the UK to have their baby but they aren’t entitled to NHS care. In some countries, it’s not possible to access midwifery care. Obstetric care in labour may be highly medicalised and home birth may even be illegal. So for some women who live overseas, coming to the UK for private care from an Independent Midwife is the best way to have the birth that’s important to them.
What if I need to see a doctor or go to hospital?
Independent Midwives are experts in normal pregnancy and birth. But sometimes things don’t go as planned. They identify when something is happening that is outside the norm, when referral to a hospital or doctor might be indicated. If that happens, your Independent Midwife will explain the situation and offer to refer you. This includes transfer to hospital during a planned home birth if needed.
An Independent Midwife can take blood tests. These are then processed at either an NHS or non-NHS provider. She can refer you to have scans either in an NHS hospital or at a private clinic.
Back up and second midwives
Independent Midwives work closely with other Independent Midwives. This usually includes arranging for a second midwife to be present at your birth, in case you or your baby need a bit of extra help. Or sometimes you might be offered midwifery care from a small team of 2 or 3 Independent Midwives, for instance if support from another midwife with a particular area of expertise would be valuable.
Whilst there is no requirement for Independent Midwives to be part of a body other than the NMC, many choose to be a part of IMUK. You can find details of IMUK members near you on their website.
Find out more by clicking on the links below or contact me if you’ve got any questions.