After that amazing moment of finding out that you are pregnant, one of the first things you will need to do is choose your lead maternity care provider. In New Zealand, you have several options including a midwife, obstetrician, or general practitioner (in a few areas). You can read more about the different types of care in our section on maternity care.
However, the reality is that the vast majority of women in New Zealand will have a midwife as their lead maternity care provider. And choosing one can be daunting! Where on earth do you begin and what do you ask a midwife?
Help! I’m pregnant!
In the first place, you’ll need to find some names. If you visit your GP, they will probably have a list of names of local midwives and this can be a good starting place. The College of Midwives also has a useful website to help you find a midwife in your area. One of the best things you can do is talk to some people in your area. If you’re lucky, you’ll have had lots of friends with babies and they’ll be able to point you to someone great.
But what do I ask them?
Ok – so you’ve got a list of names but how do you know which midwife is best for you? It’s important to note that in some parts of New Zealand, you won’t get a choice. Midwives can be thin on the ground and you may end up just having to go with whoever is local and has a space. Having said that, there are some questions that are worth asking. That way, you can be sure that you are all on the same page later on. It’s probably worth viewing these questions as the basis of a chat, rather than an interview as such. Hopefully, they will give you a good understanding of each other and you will be able to mutually decide whether the relationship will work.
1) What is your philosophy for birthing?
For example, some midwives are very pro natural birth and that may be exactly what you are after. If you’re thinking that you might like to include pain medication in your birth plan, it’s good to discuss this with your midwife so that they know how you feel and you know how they feel! Hearing your midwife talk about her philosophy should give you a good sense of their overall approach to how the birth might go. Some of the things you might like to particularly ask about include:
- Are you happy to have other people around during birthing?
- Do you do routine episiotomies?
- What’s your policy on internal examinations?
- What happens after the baby is born?
- What are your opinions about pain relief?
2) Tell me a bit about your experience as a midwife.
This can be a useful question to hear a bit about the kinds of experiences your midwife has had. If you are considering a home birth, you might like to particularly ask about the midwife’s experience in this area. Asking this question will also help you to understand how long she has been practising and in what capacity. You could also ask her:
- How many women giving birth in a particular month she routinely keeps under her care?
- What additional qualifications or training she has – these could include neonatal resuscitation, acupuncture etc…
- Is she registered as a midwife? How long have has she been registered as a midwife?
3) Where do routine appointments take place for women in your care?
You may want to ask where your midwife can see you for your routine appointments. If you have a number of other children at home or other commitments that make it difficult to be out and about, you might want a midwife who will come to your house for visits – some will, but some will only see women in their office or in a hospital room until a certain stage of their pregnancy.
4) What factors would cause you to consult or refer to an obstetrician or specialist?
Pregnancies, labours and births don’t always go as smoothly as we might hope and you might like to ask your potential midwife what complications would cause her to refer you to a specialist. Some of these things could include multiple births and maternal health.
5) What backup do you have available?
Some midwives work in practices and this makes it easy for them to have back up if they are away or sick. Other midwives work alone and it’s a good idea to make sure that you are clear who you can contact if your midwife is not going to be available for any reason. You might also like to ask whether your midwife is planning on being away or unavailable for any period during your pregnancy.
6) What postnatal care do you provide?
It is usual for someone to visit you regularly in the days after you give birth and you will stay under the care of your lead maternity care provider for 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. Ask your potential midwife how often you can expect to see her and where the visits will take place.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was living in Germany and returning about half way through my pregnancy. I was also due on the 1st of January. So, I had to frantically try and organise a midwife via Skype (we didn’t have a phone in our apartment) and email. After about 15 refusals, I finally found someone who was willing to take me. I certainly wasn’t in any position to be picky! Fortunately, she was awesome and I went on to have the same midwife for all three of my babies. Sometimes, due to location, date or availability, you’re not really going to have a choice about your LMC. However if you’re in a position where you need to make a choice about your midwife, you will also want to get a sense of her personality and whether you think you will get on.
A midwife can be one of the most amazing people in your life. When you are going through pregnancy, labour and birth, the right midwife for you can make all the difference. However, you won’t always be in a position to choose. This doesn’t mean that it still can’t be a great experience – just make sure that you are really clear about your expectations. The more open and upfront you are at the beginning, the easier it will be for your midwife to help support you through your pregnancy and birth.
Good luck! Your relationship with your midwife can be one of the best things about having a baby (except for the baby, of course!).