What does a midwife do?
A midwife is usually the first and main contact for you during your pregnancy, labour and the early postnatal period. They are responsible for providing care and advice that will help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible. This means giving you all the information you need to make informed decisions about your care.
During your antenatal care, your midwife will:
- check your health and the wellbeing of your baby
- advise you on a healthy lifestyle, giving you information and support about things like stopping smoking, exercise and healthy eating
- provide antenatal classes to help prepare you and your birth partner for labour, birth and the early postnatal period
- support your mental wellbeing and help you access support if you need it
- watch out for any potential complications, such as pre-eclampsia, and refer you to other health professionals when needed
- talk to you about any worries you have or symptoms you are concerned about
- answer any questions you have about pregnancy or labour
- help you make a birth plan, which includes deciding where you want to give birth
- help you to have a safe birth
- care for you and your baby after the birth
- put you in touch with any other support you may need, such as mental health support.
“Many women worry that their questions or concerns are too silly or small to bother us with. But that’s exactly what we’re here for – to help and guide women and their families safely through their pregnancies, their labour and beyond.”
Jules, one of Tommy’s midwives
Where do midwives work?
Most midwives work in the NHS, but some practice privately and some in social enterprise schemes.
Midwives work in all healthcare settings, including:
- hospital maternity units
- midwifery units or birth centres
- private maternity hospitals
- GP surgeries
- the community
- special baby care units (SCBU) or neonatal intensive care units (NICU).
Do I have to see my GP for a referral to a midwife?
No, you can go directly to a midwife for your antenatal care. Your GP practice or health centre can give you contact details for an NHS midwife. Your local NHS Hospital Trust website might also contain NHS midwives’ contact details so you can self-refer.
Will my midwife be able to support me with my specific needs?
Whatever your needs, your midwife will be able to support you. For example, midwives can support parents who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, or who have seriously ill or babies with disabilities.
Midwives also work in partnership with other health and social care services to meet individual needs. For example, teenage women, women who are socially excluded, women with disabilities and women from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Some midwives specialise in particular areas. For example, you may see a diabetes midwife if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes or develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Or you may be referred to a perinatal mental health midwife if you have or develop any mental health problems.
Will I be able to see the same midwife each time?
This will depend on a few things, such as:
- what services are available in your area
- your individual circumstances
- how your pregnancy is progressing
- what type of birth you choose.
Most women prefer to see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy (known as continuity of care), but this can be difficult to organise.
You can ask your midwife about what you can expect at your booking appointment.
When can I call my midwife?
You should be able to call a midwife 24 hours a day. Your midwife will give you all the contact details you need, which you can keep in your pregnancy notes. It may not be a midwife you know, but there will always be someone available to speak to.
What if I don’t get on with my midwife?
It’s important to have a good relationship with your midwife because you should feel able to talk to them about any issues or concerns you have during your pregnancy. But you can always ask if you can change midwives if you feel something isn’t right.
Can my partner talk to my midwife?
Of course. Your midwife is there to support dads and partners as well as mums. It can help for your partner to come along to any antenatal appointments so they can also ask questions.
If your partner is going to be your birth partner, your midwife can talk to them about what they can expect and how they can support you on the day.
Your partner may have time off after you give birth too. You will have a lot going on, so your postnatal visits may be much easier if your partner is there to ask questions and get all the information you need to feel comfortable.
Is a doula the same as a midwife?
No. A doula is someone who can provide emotional and practical support to you through pregnancy, labour and birth, or after you have your baby. But they aren’t medically trained and can’t replace the clinical care you’ll get from your midwife or doctor.
How will my midwife help me after I’ve given birth?
After you’ve given birth, your midwife will talk to you about your postnatal care and what this means for you and your baby. This should include contact details for the labour ward where you gave birth, in case you have any concerns or worries about yourself or your baby.
Once you are at home, the midwife should visit you on the first day after you've been discharged from the hospital to check on you and your baby.
There is no set number of visits you will have from your midwife after that. They will visit you for as long as they think you need their support. However, you will usually have a minimum of 3 visits in the first couple of weeks. You’ll start seeing your health visitor around 10 days after your baby is born.
During this time, your midwife can give you advice and support about:
- your physical recovery after birth – for example, how your wound is healing if you had a tear or cut during labour or a caesarean section
- your mental health and how you are feeling
- your health and your baby’s health, and how to know if something is wrong
- safe sleep and reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- feeding your baby
- arranging referrals for you or baby if you need additional care, such as having a tongue tie assessed or a scan.
Find out more about after the birth.
The Tommy's midwives
At Tommy's we have a team of in-house midwives who guide our Pregnancy Information Service and respond to queries from pregnant women. Find out more about who we are.
If you’re looking for advice from the team call our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].
Your Healthy Pregnancy Tool
This tool is designed to help you find personalised tips and ideas to improve your health and wellbeing during pregnancy.