Although the evidence is clear that having the continual support and care of a known midwife produces the best outcomes for both pregnant mothers and infants, there is still limited access to this kind of care. Investing in midwives means ensuring that they are readily available and accessible to any woman who would choose midwifery care.
“Midwives are not just doing breathing exercises with pregnant mothers or only present at the birth to declare the gender,” Marie says. “They have expert knowledge of all aspects of the woman’s physiological experience from pregnancy through to postnatal care. That’s where the investment needs to happen — right across the continuum of care.”
This continuum of care starts as early during pregnancy as possible, and is consistent through to labour and birth and on to postnatal care. Marie says ensuring that women can receive the best possible continuum of care starts with valuing women’s health.
“When we value women’s health and we value the role of a mother in our society, it follows that we should value and invest in the health professional that is going to provide the best care and outcomes for our women and mothers.”
JCU Head of Midwifery, Dr Marie McAuliffe
Investing in and supporting the profession of midwifery is especially important to those in rural and remote communities. “It’s important for women to receive care and give birth where they live,” Marie says. “If women have to leave their families, jobs, and communities to receive prenatal care, they are less likely to attend. They are then more likely to have a less satisfying labour and birth experience because they didn’t receive the physiological care and education that contributes to a positive birth experience.
“For our Indigenous mothers, being able to give birth in the place where they live or where they are from is extremely important because of their connection to country. So, having access to a known midwife throughout the continuum of care is important for spiritual and cultural reasons as well as physiological or practical reasons.”
Where does this investment start?
“Investment needs to start at the top, and that will then set the standard for the rest of the health care system,” Marie says. “For example, there is no designated chief of midwifery in Australia. In Queensland, the Chief Nursing Midwifery Officer for Queensland Health is not a midwife. There are midwifery advisors, but at the government level, there is no one to ensure that midwifery and midwives are being invested in and supported by our federal and state health systems.”
Marie suggests that if the value for the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies was instituted at the government level, the appropriate investment in midwifery care would follow. Although influencing such change would need to happen at the political and federal level, Marie encourages us that individual people, especially those who choose to pursue midwifery as a profession, can make a difference.
By valuing women’s and infants’ health, we can better recognise and support our midwives and be a voice that not only celebrates their importance and value to our communities, but that calls for value and investment to be the standard, rather than a dream.