Tomorrow, May 5th, is the International Day of the Midwife.
Now, if you’ve read any of my blogs before, or if you know me in person, you’ll know I’m ridiculously passionate about Midwifery, and extremely proud to be a part of the profession.
I’m passionate about birth, I believe in women, and I fully support INFORMED CHOICE.
That choice might be a planned Caesarean, or a drug free vaginal birth, or somewhere in between. It might be in a hospital, or a birth centre, or at home. It might be a water birth, or a standing birth, or a bed birth, or maybe a bit of all three.
I actually don’t particularly care which option you choose, as awful as that may sound. What I DO care about is that your choice is fully informed, respected, and supported by your caregivers. I don’t think ANYONE should have to fight during their pregnancy and birth to be heard.
While much of the public focus of Midwifery falls towards labour and birth care, there is SO much more to the role of the midwife than simply catching babies (I’ve discussed this at length before, in previous blogs).
Look, I’m always a bit careful not to get too political about stuff in my blogs, because most of the time, a bit of light reading is a good way to pass the time, and no one wants to be bombarded with too much heavy content on their tea break.
But, I’ve kinda got to speak up on this one.
Whilst I love the concept of having a whole day dedicated to celebrating midwives and the work that we do, I can’t help but approach the day with a hint of trepidation.
The political atmosphere for midwives (particularly for those working outside of the hospital setting) right now is pretty dire, and it occurs to me that a day of pink cupcakes and speeches (although lovely) is essentially glossing over some pretty big issues, with more than a little bit of lip service.
Just today, I read a news article reporting the closure of (yet another) maternity service in Western Australia, which the Midwives fought for over two years to protect.
Over the past 12 months, multiple Midwifery Practices across Australia have been forced to close their doors, and there’s been a real (ongoing) fight to secure funding for Midwifery-Led care models, despite the evidence telling us that Continuity of Care with a known Midwife is actually considered to be the GOLD STANDARD of care for low-risk women, and has significant benefits for high-risk women too.
Fifteen years ago, the town that I live in (and the surrounding areas), had a number of bustling, independent midwifery practices, where low-risk women could access midwifery care and homebirth services. Today, to my knowledge, there is one independent midwife left here.
Homebirth midwives have been fighting for years to gain access to an appropriate insurance product that will cover them to provide Intrapartum (labour) Care to birthing mothers, and are currently only able to legally practice due to an insurance “exemption”, which is in place until December 2019. After this time, all bets are off. The fees associated with the insurances that they CAN access covering their antenatal and postnatal care are phenomenal, and the increasing restrictions and requirements of midwives trying to work within the “new” system of becoming Medicare Eligible Providers, means that many, MANY amazing midwives are simply unable to continue working in private practice.
Hence, the practices are closing down, the independent midwives are becoming few and far between, and an entire component of CHOICE is being diminished, bit by bit.
Now, I’m a hospital midwife, so you might wonder why I’d even be raising this stuff as an issue. After all, it doesn’t affect me, does it?
Ahhh, but you see, it does.
Because as I said before, I’m passionate about birth, I believe in women, and I fully support INFORMED CHOICE.
I don’t want the women I meet in clinic to be there begrudgingly, simply because there was nowhere else for them to go. I don’t want them to feel trapped in a system that they don’t align with. And I’d much rather that they had access to a midwife at home, or in a birth centre, than to bail out of care altogether, and go it alone with their pregnancy and birth.
Homebirth isn’t for everyone, and birth centres aren’t for everyone. But neither are hospitals.
Women deserve to have the right to choose where, and with whom they birth.
Tomorrow, May 5th, on the International Day of the Midwife, women and birth workers from all around Australia will be peacefully demonstrating outside the AHPRA offices of each Capital City to request that amendments are made to the current restrictions currently forced upon privately practicing midwives, and to seek answers surrounding the ongoing indemnity insurance issues.
Remember, these are the decisions that affect not only current birthing choices for women and families, but the birthing choices for the future.
It is vital to me that my daughter has birthing choices, if she wishes to become a mother.
If, like me, you’re unable to attend a rally in your home state, you can sign this petition to show that you support privately practicing midwives, and women’s access to birth choices, even if they’re not the options that you’d choose for yourself.
I’d like to think that this year, on the International Day of the Midwife, we, as a collective, can begin to bring about some really significant changes for mothers, and for midwives. And to me, that’s a whole lot sweeter than a hundred pink cupcakes.
Stepping off the Soapbox now,