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What does a Midwife actually do? - Written by an Australian Midwife


To explain this, lets have a look at the difference between a Midwife, Nurse, Doula and Obstetrician.

Nurse vs Midwife


To become a Midwife in Australia you need to complete a university degree. You can either do 3 years training, studying just Midwifery (pronouncing the ‘i’ the same as you do in ‘still’) or you study 3 years nursing and then 14 months postgraduate Midwifery.

In short, a Midwife would have very little clue what to do in another area of the hospital outside Maternity. Unless, of course, they have worked as a Nurse during their career. Even more so, a Nurse who has only studied Nursing would find it even more difficult to work with pregnant women. The main difference is pregnancy and birth is normal and natural - you are not sick. Nursing is a professional where you care for the sick.

Midwives are taught everything from care for pre conception up until your baby is 6 weeks old - generally speaking. Midwives learn all the skills needed to care for both normal and complex situations. A Midwife is trained to be the first line of care. They can look after you through out your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. They are therefore trained to recognised the difference between normal and abnormal.

A Midwife cannot treat abnormal. This is where an Obstetrician steps in.



An Obstetrician is a Doctor. Interestingly, this is the only type of doctor trained to be both a physician and a surgeon. This means they can care for you, prescribe medication and do operations. They are highly trained in caring and treating complex situations. They provide both advice and treatment. A Midwife can only treat ‘abnormal’ if instructed by a Doctor. It is the Midwife’s duty of care to report anything beyond the realm of ‘normal’ to a Doctor.



A doula is a professional support person. To become a doula you would do a short course. This is not a university degree. A doula is a person who has a deeper understanding as to the mechanisms of pregnancy and birth to be able to support you better than perhaps your best friend would. A doula is not usually linked to a hospital and has their own private business. A doula is there to provide emotional and physical support for you. They are not able to make decisions as to the type of care you receive. A doula is someone who gets to know the women and families they are working with so they can be a voice for them when speaking to other health professionals.


Who will look after me?


Women can choose to have a private Obstetrician during their pregnancy. This means the only person who sees you during pregnancy is that one Doctor. When you are in labour you are cared for by Midwives until the time you are giving birth to your baby. Your Doctor delivers your baby. Your doctor does not care for you after your baby is born but provides instructions to Midwives as to the care you need and guidance if anything becomes abnormal. Most Obstetricians like to have an appointment with you 6 weeks after your baby is born.


A Midwife will care for you if you are part of the public hospital system or you find yourself a private Midwife. There is a huge amount of different type of Midwifery care. Most hospitals provide multiple options. I won’t go into detail here but some of the different types include Midwifery group practise, caseload and GP shared care where women see their GP for half the pregnancy along side a Midwife. With any sort of Midwifery care, if your pregnancy becomes complex or you or baby become unwell during pregnancy then you will have input from an Obstetrician. If there is any complication during labour and birth you will also be looked after by an Obstetrician.

Yes, Midwives deliver babies.

I know ‘deliver’ is not the correct terminology because we only ‘deliver’ pizzas but I feel it has more oomph when I want to make a point.


You are usually only looked after by a nurse - who is not also a midwife - if you or your baby are in intensive care or a special care nursery.


You will only have a doula if you choose to have one and you find one privately. They are there to be by your side while you receive care from either a Midwife or Obstetrician.


Happy pregnancy!

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