Providing contemporary midwifery care at KEMH

May 5, 2020

As we celebrate International Day of the Midwife at KEMH, we recognise and acknowledge the enormous contribution midwives make to the lives of mothers and babies.

Throughout the decades, as midwifery options have evolved, women have been provided with various care options to suit their needs.

Today, women are offered an array of pregnancy care options, available to them with midwives in the hospital, in the home, in the family birth centre and in the community.

One of the most significant milestones in midwifery history was that of waterbirth.

King Edward Memorial Hospital first introduced a water birth policy back in 2010 and now ten years on, Sonya Mahoney, Acting Clinical Midwifery Manager, Family Birth Centre, said a lot has changed in that time.

“I can remember midwives saying, Why would you do that? If we were meant to birth in water, we would have fins!’,” said Sonya.

“Water birth competent midwives had a lot of work showing colleagues that this was a safe option… but water birth has massive benefits to both women and the midwives.

“Water is relaxing and birthing naturally is about staying relaxed. When a client is in established labour and she steps into the pool, you can visibly see the tension seep out of her.”

Sarah Nicholls, a midwife with the Community Midwifery Program (CMP) completed her Masters on water birth and said when a baby is born through water, the transition into life is so much more gentle.

“The baby is in a nice warm water bath while inside his or her mother,” she said.

“When born onto land, the cold air is a sudden and unexpected temperature change and it’s a shock to the baby, like being woken up by a very loud alarm clock.

“But when born into a pool of water, that initial shock is much less. The baby transitions from the inside water bath to the outside water pool and gently into mother’s arms. It’s like being woken up by your mum and a cup of tea rather that the alarm clock.”

While midwives Sonya and Sarah both agree it has been a slow climb they said fortunately midwives love water birth as much as clients.

“Water birth competent midwives have really put themselves out to be available to support their colleagues and student midwives to gain competency and feel confident in this option,” Sonya said.

“Over time, the availability of water birth has spread from just offering it for Community Midwifery Program home births, to the Family Birth Centre. 

Sarah added: “now water birth is also available for low risk clients on Labour and Birth Suite at KEMH.

“Previously, if you had wanted a water birth on Labour and Birth Suite, you had to bring your own pool with you. But following requests from a lot of midwifery staff, it was agreed that the birthing pools could also be used as well as analgesia,” she said.

“There is increasing demand from women.”

Waterbirth is just one component of the contemporary midwifery care available at Women and Newborn Health Service.

As part of that care, King Edward Memorial Hospital is committed to continuity of care models which provide women with a primary midwife and a team who empower them through their pregnancy and into early parenting.

Sonya said research shows that women who have care from a midwife are more likely to have a normal birth, a positive experience of labour and birth, be satisfied with maternity care, and have increased breastfeeding rates. There is also a reduced cost to the health system.

“Our biggest success is Midwifery Group Practice teams and the Community Midwifery Program in the hospital, with over 20 percent of women birthing through KEMH having access to a continuity model,” she said.

“Achieving this outcome is all thanks to management and our midwives supporting and working with women.”