May 2019 2nd Edition

Bouncing babies are at the heart of midwifery

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

The ancient profession of midwifery has evolved over the years to encompass more than just the delivering of babies – it also includes the antenatal care needed during pregnancy.

South Africa’s public health system has a comprehensive and efficient midwifery programme which ensures that babies are born healthy and in safe conditions. One of these is the midwife obstetric units (MOUs) programme which has invested in the provision of midwives.

The South African Nursing Council (SANC) describes midwifery as ‘a specialised field with a focus on expanded roles and competencies to improve maternal health, reproductive health (including genetic counselling) and child health.

The MOUs provide primary healthcare services, such as weight, blood pressure and urine tests.

According to the Department of Health, pregnant women are screened by midwives for possible risks to their health and the health of the foetus. Both teenage girls and women over 35 who are pregnant are regarded as high-risk cases.

There are different levels of midwifes. A midwife specialist is a registered professional nurse and midwife who has advanced expertise in midwifery, holds an additional qualification in midwifery and is registered as such with the SANC.

Midwife specialists act as leaders, clinical specialists, consultants, managers, researchers, change agents, advocates and educators in midwifery, including neonatal care.   

How to become a midwife

  • Several universities offer the relevant qualification, including the universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Venda and the Free State ñ all of which offer a nursing qualification that has midwifery as a course or subject.
  • Maths, life sciences, English and life orientation must be passed in matric if you want to become a nurse.
  • According to the SANC, midwife specialists make house-calls and work in community, and primary healthcare settings, including but not limited to community health centres, MOUs, clinics and other health establishments.
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