We all have to start somewhere, right?
All midwives start life as student midwives. At university, they clock up hours of attending lectures and studying.
Then they head out into the labour wards to attend some real life births.
As you can imagine, those real birth experiences are invaluable for student midwives. They are able to have hands-on experience of supporting women in labour.
5 Reasons To Have A Student Midwife At The Birth
If you’re lucky enough to be offered a student midwife to attend your birth, you might want to consider saying yes.
There are lots of benefits – for you, and for them. Here are 5 reasons to have a student midwife:
#1: Continuity Of Care
Midwives are busy. You can read about it in the papers most days. They’re overstretched, overworked and understaffed.
Your midwife is likely to be caring for other women as well as you. She’ll be dashing in and out of the room, to check everything is ok, and then she’ll disappear again to do the same for her other patients.
Having a student midwife offers you continuity of care. The student won’t have other patients to see; she’ll be assigned to you and will stick with you for the duration of her shift. This not only gives you the benefit of continual support, it also means you have another pair of (partly) trained eyes on you during the labour.
#2: New Blood
Midwifery, like all things, has changed a lot over the years. Midwifery practices change in accordance with new evidence, new scientific discoveries, and a greater understanding of birth. Student midwives are learning up-to-date information, and you might find they do things a little differently.
When I had my daughter, I noticed student midwives always asked my consent before touching me – something that more experienced midwives often overlook. Student midwives are new blood. They are fresh to the birthing game, and they are ready to use their new knowledge to enhance your birth experience.
#3: Freeing Up Your Partner
Having a student midwife present at the birth will free up your partner to play a more active role. Even when the midwife is elsewhere, if there’s a training health professional in the room, your birth partner can focus on providing you with some much-needed emotional support.
The continuity of care provided by a student midwife won’t just be beneficial to you, it will also allow your partner to relax a little.
#4: You Can Develop A Relationship
Midwives are busy. They’ll have to leave the room at times, and when they are present, they’ll be writing a lot of notes in your file. They record everything, from what you eat and drink to the times you pee. The student midwife, on the other hand, can focus on getting to know you.
Giving birth is a life-changing event. The people around you – and that includes your midwife, of course – will become a part of your history, and you are likely to develop a bond with them. It doesn’t hurt to have an extra person in the room – someone to lean on for support.
Being there throughout the birth allows the student midwife to build a unique relationship with you – something which could be beneficial to your overall experience.
#5: You’ll Help Them Learn
This is your birth, your body, your baby, but it’s not just you who will benefit from the presence of a student midwife. Student midwives need to attend a certain number of births to qualify as midwives. They need to have gained enough experience to allow them to feel confident in attending births.
When you invite a student midwife into the birthing room, you help her to further her education and become a better midwife.
A recently qualified midwife, Aimée from England, told BellyBelly:
“Fundamentally it’s unrealistic for us to learn midwifery without observing or practising. I’ve seen and assisted with over 100 births and every single one was unique and taught me so much.
“No amount of study, using dummies at uni, or watching videos will prepare you for the immensely beautiful, complex and emotionally charged privilege of providing labour and birth care. The immense responsibility you feel, combined with a huge sense of pride in the mother, is something which cannot be taught or observed.
“Having a student present means a spare set of hands, eyes and ears, which can be crucial if anything deviates from the norm or if an emergency arises. It also means someone else to be your voice, to know your preferences, and to act as an advocate for you in situations where you may not feel confident enough to ask questions.
“I’m so grateful to every woman who allowed me to be there during such an intimate and amazing time in her life. The skills and confidence that I gained are priceless and will shape the kind of midwife I become, hopefully benefitting future mums and babies for years to come”.
What To Do If It’s Not Working Out
Most student midwives are passionate about birth and want you to have the best birth possible. It’s important to remember, though, not every student midwife will be as lovely as Aimée.
Sometimes people click and sometimes they don’t. So if you are assigned a student midwife you don’t click with, don’t worry. It’s perfectly ok to change your mind about having the student in the room, if you feel it isn’t working out.
Just as you would cancel your window cleaner, ask to see a different doctor, or ask to speak to a different member of staff in a shop, you can change your mind about a student midwife.
Just let your midwife know so she can find somewhere else for the student to be.
Sometimes women want to switch midwives; midwives know it’s part of the job and they’re taught not to take it personally.
Why A Student Midwife Isn’t A Free Doula
Perhaps the continuity of care was the aspect that caught your attention. If so, you might want to consider hiring a doula to attend your birth. A doula is someone who offers both emotional and physical to support to women and their partners during birth. Some are also available before and after, if you wish.
She is there to support you. She will help you achieve the birth you want, and support you to advocate for your birth preferences. Simply put, she is there to help you achieve the best birth possible.
Hiring a doula has been found to reduce the c-section rate by between 60 and 80%. The service a doula offers is invaluable; it’s like having your own personal cheerleader for the birth.
If that’s the support you want, you should hire a doula.
A student midwife might be able to offer you some of the benefits of a doula – such as the continuity of care and the freeing up of your birth partner – but it’s not the same thing.
You can’t interview your student midwife in advance, and pick the one who’s perfectly suited to you. You’ll simply be asked whether or not you’re willing to have a student midwife present. If you agree, you’ll be assigned the one who’s on shift.