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What do midwives do?

7-minute read

Key facts

  • A midwife is a health professional trained to provide you with support and care during pregnancy, labour and birth.
  • Midwives help you to stay healthy in pregnancy.
  • If no complications arise, midwives are the main professionals who support you during a birth with little intervention.
  • Midwives also care for you and your baby in the first few weeks following the birth.
  • Midwives work in many settings including public hospitals, birth centres and private clinics.

What is a midwife?

Practising midwives are health professionals who must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Some have extra qualifications and can prescribe certain medicines, or practise privately. Private midwives must also register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

In Australia, while people of any gender can practise as midwives, most midwives are female.

What is my midwife's role during pregnancy?

Midwives will provide most of your antenatal care if you're planning to give birth in a public maternity unit. You might also see a midwife during your appointments with a private obstetrician. For a planned home birth, you'll probably see the same midwife (or a small team) throughout your pregnancy.

Your midwife will usually:

Your midwife's role during labour and birth

Midwives will support you through labour and birth. They can:

  • give you information, encouragement and emotional support
  • monitor your progress and suggest strategies to help your labour
  • monitor the baby's heartbeat and other signs of their wellbeing
  • offer you pain relief, or arrange for a doctor to administer it
  • get extra medical help if needed

If you have an uncomplicated birth at a public hospital or birth centre, your midwife will usually assist you with both the labour and the birth of your baby. You may not have the same midwife care for you for the whole labour. An obstetrician can be called in if there are complications.

In a private hospital, your midwife will update your obstetrician on your progress and call them in for the birth. 

If you’ve chosen a home birth, your midwife will manage your labour and the birth. They might need to call an ambulance to take you to hospital if complications arise that require medical intervention.

Midwives can't give epidurals. These can only be given in a hospital by an anaesthetist.

What is my midwife’s role after my baby is born?

Your midwife will care for both you and your baby immediately after the birth. The midwife, or your doctor, will check whether you have lost too much blood or need stitches.

Midwives offer postnatal care in hospital, including:

When you go home, a midwife might visit you at home.

After a home birth, your midwife will usually visit you daily for a few days. Some midwives will also be available to give advice over the phone for the first few weeks.Check with your hospital, birth centre or private midwife about the postnatal services they offer.

Your local child health nurse, many of whom are midwives, can also visit you at home and see you for regular appointments as your child grows.

In some states and territories, or if you move to a new area with your newborn baby, you may need to get in touch with the service yourself. If you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to ask your hospital midwife how to access home care services, before you go home with your new baby.

What questions should I ask a midwife?

It is important to ask questions, especially if you don’t understand what your midwife is saying or need more information.

Use the healthdirect Question Builder to help you form a list of questions to ask your midwife, GP or other health professional. You can print this off and take it with you.

What training has a midwife had?

Traditionally, midwives were nurses who underwent extra study. Now, in Australia, midwives can become qualified by doing a 3-year university degree without needing to study nursing first.

Registered nurses can also become midwives by completing postgraduate university studies in midwifery.

Where do midwives work?

Midwives work in many public and private health settings, including:

Where you see a midwife will depend on where and how you choose to give birth. If you live in a rural or remote area, your choices might be more limited. You might see a midwife (or doctor) at a local community health service. You may also need to travel to a hospital with a maternity unit for the birth.

How much does it cost to see a midwife?

Midwifery care in a public hospital and birth centre is covered by Medicare, so if you have a Medicare card you will have no out-of-pocket costs.

If you chose midwifery care under a private obstetrician or see a private midwife, you will need to pay a fee. Most private midwives are registered as Medicare providers, so you may get a rebate through Medicare. If you have private health insurance, check with them regarding how much they will cover, and how much it will cost you to see a private midwife.

If you have a home birth, Medicare will cover some of the care offered by a private midwife with a Medicare provider number, but only for care given during the pregnancy and after the baby is born — not the actual birth.

If you are seeing a midwife privately, it’s a good idea to ask about likely costs before your first appointment.

Resources and support

To learn more about midwifery, visit Australian College of Midwives. To find a private midwife, visit Midwives Australia.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2022

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Need more information?

Homebirth: pregnancy care and birth | Raising Children Network

Homebirth is an option if you’re healthy, have an uncomplicated pregnancy and can transfer to hospital. Your pregnancy care will be with a private midwife.

Read more on website

Birthing services in Central Australia | NT.GOV.AU

Antenatal care, midwife services, labour and birth, lactation consultant, childbirth education and support for Central Australia.

Read more on NT Health website

Postnatal exercise - Better Health Channel

Always consult with your doctor or midwife before starting any postnatal exercise program.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Pain relief during labour | Raising Children Network

Pain relief in labour includes natural options like massage, as well as medical options. It’s best to discuss options with a midwife or doctor in pregnancy.

Read more on website

Pregnancy & antenatal appointments | Raising Children Network

At antenatal appointments, your doctor or midwife keeps track of your health and your baby’s health during pregnancy. You can ask questions and get support.

Read more on website

Midwives: guide for women & families | Raising Children Network

Midwives have special training and skills in caring for birthing mothers and their babies during pregnancy, labour and birth, and in the weeks after birth.

Read more on website

Health professionals involved in your pregnancy

Learn about the health professionals who may be involved in your pregnancy, such as midwives, doctors, obstetricians and allied health professionals.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Homebirth - Better Health Channel

Having a baby at home can be an option for pregnant women who are healthy, have a low-risk pregnancy and live close to a hospital in case the birth does not go to plan.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Choosing where to give birth

Advice on choosing where to give birth, including a midwifery unit or birth centre, hospital or at home, and what to expect from private and public care.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy care & birth: public hospitals | Raising Children Network

Public hospitals are safe options for pregnancy care and birth. Midwives usually lead the care in public hospital births. Medicare covers most costs.

Read more on website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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