Midwives are nurses who specialize in the care of maternity patients and the delivery of babies. In the past, midwives worked largely under the supervision of gynaecologists, but the country's shortage of qualified medical personnel has resulted in a move towards greater independence and authority in the case of healthy pregnancies and problem-free deliveries.
Midwives deliver babies and provide antenatal and postnatal advice, care and support to women, their babies, their partners and families. They work as part of a team of professional and medical staff that includes doctors, social workers and health visitors. They refer patients to gynaecologists when problems in pregnancy are diagnosed. If complications arise during delivery, midwives have to administer stipulated emergency measures and arrange for immediate attention by a gynaecologist.
Midwives examine and monitor patients during pregnancy and advise them in respect of diet and health practices. They carry out screening tests, take patient samples, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures. They provide information, emotional support and reassurance to women and their partners. They might conduct initial examinations of maternity patients who have just been admitted into a maternity ward. They stay with patients during labour to reassure them, monitor them, assist them and administer medication. They monitor the foetus during labour, assist with the delivery of the baby, conduct postpartum examinations and are involved in the general treatment of mothers and babies. They have to help parents to cope with miscarriage, termination, stillbrith and neonatal death. Other tasks are writing records, assessing care requirements or writing care plans, and training student midwives.
Midwives call on mothers after delivery to conduct examinations and instruct them on how to care for themselves and their new babies.
Skills that midwives need are the ability to deal with emotionally charged situations, excellent teamworking skills, interpersonal and communication skills, strong observational skills and an interest in the process of pregnancy and birth.
Schooling & School Subjects
To qualify as a midwife, one must obtain basic nursing training, as well as an advanced diploma in Midwifery. Nursing training can be undertaken at UKZN, Wits, NWU, UJ, US, UL, UWC, UCT, UZ, UV, UNISA. Midwifery is available at UCT and UNISA. Nursing is also offered at CPUT, TUT and Community Nursing at VUT.
Nursing College: training is practical and theoretical. Training at the nursing college is done in collaboration with a university. Clinical or practical training is done at accredited training hospitals. The duration of the course is 4 years.
Advanced Training: qualified nurses may study further in specialised fields such as Paediatric Nursing Science, Midwifery, Orthopaedic Nursing Science, Intensive Care Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, Community Health Nursing, Geriatric Nursing Science, etc.
Qualified nurses and midwives have to register with the South African Nursing Council.
The South African Nursing Council (SANC)
P O Box 1123
Tel: (012) 420-1000 Fax: (012) 343-5400
Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA
P O Box 1280
Tel: (012) 343-2315/6/7 Fax: (012) 344-0750