About midwives

Midwife means being ‘with woman’.

Midwives have special training and skills in caring for women during pregnancy, labour and birth, and in the weeks after birth. They also care for newborn babies for between a few days and six weeks after birth, including helping with breastfeeding.

In Australia, all midwives need to be registered with the Nurses and Midwives Board of Australia to practise.

Private midwives are registered with the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and practise either alone or in small teams. Most private midwives have Medicare provider numbers and access to Medicare rebates or rebates through private health funds. Some of these midwives can also prescribe medications.

Midwives can be men or women, although most midwives are women.

Along with your GP or obstetrician, your midwife is the health professional to see for any questions or worries you have about your health and wellbeing, or your baby’s health or wellbeing, during pregnancy and birth and straight after the birth.

During pregnancy: why you might see a midwife

If you’re planning to have your baby at a public hospital or birth centre, midwives will be closely involved in your pregnancy care.

Many private obstetricians employ midwives in their consulting rooms to help with your pregnancy care.

If you’re planning a homebirth, your midwife will coordinate all your care throughout your pregnancy.

In all birth settings, a midwife will usually:

  • talk with you about your general health and give you support and advice
  • do routine health checks on you and your baby, including checking your baby’s position and growth
  • help arrange hospital bookings, tests and scans
  • give information and talk about labour, pain and birth
  • help prepare you for life at home with your baby
  • help you make choices about feeding your baby
  • ask about your lifestyle, including smoking, drinking and other drugs, and send you for extra support if you need it
  • support you emotionally.
Depending on your birth setting and the type of care you have, you might see one or more midwives. Women who can get to know their midwife (or midwives) can find that this one-to-one care from familiar people is a big part of a happy pregnancy and birth experience.

At the birth: why you might see a midwife

At public hospitals and birth centres, midwives are the main health professionals who care for you during labour and birth. They let you know when to come to the hospital or birth centre and what to do in labour. They’ll call a doctor if you need extra medical care.

If you’re giving birth at a private hospital, the hospital midwife will call your obstetrician close to the time of birth. In most cases, midwives and doctors work together as a team.

If you’re having a homebirth, your midwife and another midwife will come to your home and care for you during labour and birth.

In all birth settings, a midwife will usually:

  • give you information and talk about labour, pain and birth
  • suggest positions, movements and changes to help your labour progress
  • guide your breathing and help you relax
  • monitor your health and your baby’s health through routine checks
  • reassure and encourage you, and give you emotional support during labour
  • give you pain relief, in consultation with you and your doctors
  • assess the progress of your labour and birth and get extra medical help if needed
  • help your support people care for you.

After the birth: why you might see a midwife

After a public hospital or birth centre birth, midwives will provide most of your care, including helping you learn about breastfeeding and caring for your new baby.

After a homebirth, your midwives will stay for several hours. They will check on you and your baby every day for a few days, depending on how you and your baby are going. Some midwives are available for phone advice (or a visit) up until six weeks following the birth.

In all birth settings, a midwife will also:

  • talk about your labour and birth and explain anything you’re not sure about
  • give you pain relief if you need it and help you recover
  • set up newborn screening tests
  • do routine checks on you and your baby
  • refer you to specialists if you need them – for example, a paediatrician or lactation consultant
  • discuss contraception
  • arrange for a child and family health nurse to see you in the first weeks after the birth
  • organise services for going home, if you need them
  • support you emotionally.

Going to a midwife

Depending on your birth setting and type of pregnancy care, you might see a midwife either at the hospital, in the community or in your home.

If you’re planning a hospital or birth centre birth, soon after your first GP appointment in pregnancy, you need to call the hospital or birth centre to book your first appointment.

In a midwife-led program, you’ll probably see the same midwife or small group of midwives. Birth centres and midwife-led continuity of care programs are very popular and usually have waiting lists, so you need to book in early.

In programs or services with other arrangements, midwives work on rostered shifts so you’ll probably get to know several during your pregnancy and hospital or birth centre stay. That means you might not know the midwife who cares for you at the birth.

At a private hospital, you’re likely to see the same midwife (if there is one) at your obstetrician’s consulting rooms throughout your pregnancy care, but not for the birth.

In some hospitals you can take in a private midwife to provide your care during labour and birth. The private midwife needs to have a special agreement with the hospital.

Homebirth is usually with a private midwife. You don’t need a GP referral to contact a private midwife. But some eligible private midwives who can offer Medicare rebates might ask you to get a GP referral. You do need a GP referral if you’d like to go through a public homebirth program.

Finding a private midwife

To find a private midwife, visit: