Whilst working with many clients, it has become evident that the differences between a midwife & a health visitor are sometimes confused; so, I have decided to explain the roles in this month’s article.
A midwife is a person who has undertaken a degree course leading to a midwifery qualification or a registered adult nurse with additional training in midwifery practice.
S/he works in partnership with women, their partners/families providing support, care & advice during the antenatal period, labour & postnatal period; enabling women to make informed choices about their care. This includes health education, health promotion, counselling, completing clinical tests, promoting natural births, identifying abnormalities in mother or baby & carrying out treatments prescribed by a doctor.
S/he may work in a maternity unit, with GP’s in the community, birth centres, children’s/health centres, private maternity hospitals or independently; with other health care professionals, support staff & social care services.
Hospital midwives are usually based in a hospital obstetric or consultant unit, birth centres, midwife led units; in the antenatal clinic, labour & postnatal wards. Community midwives work in teams, providing continuity of care antenatally & postnatally to a caseload of women, at home or in a clinic. They provide home births & visits, usually discharging mother & baby around day 10, however, they can offer support until 28 days.
Private midwives work independently of the NHS, are self-employed & charge fees for their services. You can choose to have combined care provided by both the NHS & a private midwife. Please discuss your options with your midwife (Royal College of Midwives).
What is a Health Visitor?
A health visitor is a registered nurse or midwife, who has also undertaken community public health nursing training & is employed by the NHS or a social enterprise. They provide an evidence-based service for individuals, families, groups & the community, promoting health & reducing health inequalities.
A universal family focused service is offered to all expectant parents during the antenatal period, until the child is 5 years old & vulnerable individuals according to need. Some health visitors work with the 0-19 population & lead a team of staff e.g. community staff nurses, nursery nurses & admin staff. Services are offered from GP surgeries, children’s centres, community/health centres & the family home (Institute of Health Visiting 2018).
Families can expect at least five reviews, which are:
* Antenatal, from 28 weeks of pregnancy,
* New birth visit, between 10–14 days,
* 6-8 week review of mother & baby,
* 1 year review &
* 2 – 2.5 year review.
These are part of the Healthy Child Programme (2009) which aims to improve the health & well-being of children, through health & developmental reviews, health promotion, health education, parenting support, screening, immunisations, detecting ill-health, emotional well-being & safeguarding. Services are usually available Monday – Friday, 9 – 5pm.
Private health visitors work independently like private midwives & can also provide the above care. At IHVOL, we provide bespoke services to meet your needs e.g. antenatal/postnatal support, pregnancy loss, emotional well-being, infant feeding, transition to parenthood, sleep support; in the comfort of your home, during evenings & weekends.
Both midwives & health visitors are overseen by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC), the statutory body which confirms professional registration upon qualification & ensures continued competence throughout practice.
Regarding last month’s article on Mental Health & Fatherhood, the NHS has agreed that partners of new & expectant women who have depression or anxiety, will be offered mental health assessments!