What is an Independent Midwife? Well I’ll tell you, but first allow me to tell you a story…
I floated groggily up to the surface feeling disorientated, confused and deeply deeply frightened and sad. The general anaesthetic still ran through my system, pulling me down, but I must have made some kind of incoherent noise because there was movement in the corner of the room that drew my eyes to my midwife, sitting up from the armchair she had been sleeping in whilst waiting for me to come to. She came over to my bedside and started, once again, taking care of me just as she had been for the whole of pregnancy, the whole of my labour.
I was able to relax. I was not alone.
She stayed with me until my husband could join me. Every day – – for the whole of my six-day hospital stay one of my wonderful midwives came to visit me and my daughter. They interceded with the hospital for me on numerous occasions, spent time with my daughter when I was unable to, held me when I cried, massaged some of the aches away, brought me a gift for my birthday and celebrated with me when my little girl was returned to me from SCBU and again when we were discharged to go home.
Despite the scary and unexpected turn my otherwise-straightforward birth took, resulting in a prolonged and unwanted hospital stay, I am far more sanguine about my daughter’s birth than I was about my son’s. I lay that entirely at the feet of my wonderful Independent Midwives and the care they provided. We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of that wonderful and terrible day when my daughter was born, and she and I nearly died, and I would like to thank them once again for their loving care of us all.
What is an Independent Midwife?
Quite simply an Independent Midwife is a midwife who works as a self-employed ‘business’ outside the NHS. Sometimes referred to as a ‘private midwife’, like you’d refer to a private doctor, or private healthcare. You hire them directly to care for you during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period.
What does an Independent Midwife do?
As outlined above, an Independent Midwife would care for you during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period including discussing all your birth options, discussing and running any tests, accompanying you to hospital appointments if necessary and advising you on feeding and newborn care. Often they offer ancillary services such as hypnotherapy, massage, birth debriefs from previous experiences, Blessingways, bone closing ceremonies, belly casting and even acupuncture!
But what about NHS services?
Whilst Independent Midwives work outside the NHS they usually cultivate strong working relationships with maternity services in their area so that they are able to co-ordinate with NHS services when and where necessary. This includes such instances as ultrasound scans, consultant appointments, blood tests, elective C-Sections and intrapartum (during birth) transfers to hospital.
How much does an Independent Midwife cost?
This can vary from midwife to midwife depending on experience, location and even popularity. As a ball park figure you’d probably be looking at between £3,000 and £5,000 for all your care. This does, admittedly, sound like a large sum, but when you think of the time and expertise you get for that it’s actually excellent value for money – if you don’t believe me just have a look at the cost of other private healthcare and you’ll see that you’re getting a bargain for the care you’ll receive. If you can’t afford it as a lump sum it’s worth discussing a payment plan with the midwife as they’re often open to paying by installments.
Why would I hire an Independent Midwife?
So now you know what an Independent Midwife does, but do you have a better understanding of why an expectant mother might want to hire one?
The primary considerations for most of the women who choose the care of an Independent Midwife are ‘time’ and ‘choice’. Unlike the NHS, an IM can offer you as much time as you – as an individual – need, both during pregnancy and after the birth. Women who are more likely to need this are:
– those with a ‘high risk’ pregnancy who want a homebirth
– those who have had a traumatic previous experience of birth and/or hospitals
– those with existing mental health issues that mean they require additional support and consideration (survivors of sexual abuse for example).
Appointments are held more frequently than you’d receive in the NHS, especially for subsequent pregnancies, and usually last for upwards of an hour. Taking place in your own home they allow you the privacy and comfort to really get to know your midwife and for her to get to know you and the whole of your family. My son used to love hearing his sister’s heartbeat from inside my tummy and was so fond of one of my midwives that he would invite her upstairs to his bedroom. She used to joke it was the best offer she’d had in years!
Not only does this mean that you are more likely to open up about issues that might affect pregnancy and birth and be able to deal with them ahead of time, it also means that your midwife knows what is normal for you so that when you’re at your most vulnerable you’re not having to vocalise things to explain that something is (or is not) normal for you.
It also means that they can avoid or ameliorate anything which is a trigger for you – for example, when I was transferred it meant that my midwife was able to mediate with the doctors and hospital midwives to make sure I was fully supported when I had to be moved to an area of the hospital that I had been having flashbacks and panic attacks about for the previous 3 years. It was the reason one of my midwives was there for me when I woke up from the general anaesthetic, as I described at the beginning of this post, because they knew about the poor aftercare I had received and how much fear I had over being left alone in a hospital.
Independent Midwives are staunchly in favour of home births and aim to support them wherever possible. They’re often much more highly trained in assisting with births that are classed as ‘high-risk’ by the NHS. Such things as VBACS (vaginal birth after C-Section), breech births and twins present an interesting challenge to them and you won’t be constantly pressured to give birth in a clinical setting.
As happened in my own situation, should you need to be transferred your Independent Midwife would accompany you and stay with you, she would also visit you in hospital and try to give you the same care and support you would expect had you stayed at home.
To be honest, I could probably fill multiple pages with all the things an Independent Midwife would do for you. They are wonderful women (usually, although I believe there are a couple of male IMs about) who have gone independent because they want to offer the kind of individualised, personal care they think women and their babies deserve. If you want to know specifically what an IM can offer then I suggest getting in touch with one in your area and asking her a comprehensive list of questions.
If you want to know how to choose an Independent Midwife then please read my next post on this subject: “How to choose an Independent Midwife”.
All images are courtesy of the Oxfordshire Midwifery Practice, three Independent Midwives (Purple Walnut Midwife, Oxford Midwife and Birthday Presence)who work as a collective to offer the best care to expectant mothers in Oxfordshire and surrounding areas.