On Monday 5th May the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority (HSA) will be celebrating ‘International Day of the Midwife’ with a display in the atrium of the Cayman Islands Hospital from 10am – 4pm showcasing midwifery, one of the most vital services provided.
Midwives play an integral role in the maternity and birthing process and have been recognised by the World Health Organisation as the best person to deliver babies, providing the circumstances are normal.
According to Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer of the HSA, “Cayman is well served by a small but talented team of midwives who are able to cover all three islands. The Authority employs 16 midwives in the Maternity Unit, plus two in the Women’s Health Clinic, and one in each of the District Health Centres,” she said.
“Midwives practice in a variety of environments, ranging from the hospital to delivering infants and caring for them in the parent’s home. Here in the Cayman Islands, our midwives practice in the hospital, clinics, and travel to visit mothers and babies in the home following delivery”, Yearwood said.
Nurse Shannon Hydes, Nurse Manager of Maternity, stated that midwives are highly trained individuals who undertake extensive training before they can become qualified.
“Midwives conduct deliveries for about 63 per cent of hospital clinic patients each year”, Ms Hydes said. “However they assist at all births, including instrumental deliveries and Caesarean sections as well as with normal deliveries conducted by private obstetricians. Even though planned home births have not taken place on a regular basis since the 1970s due to safety concerns, midwives are able to undertake such deliveries in selected patients.”
“All of our midwives must have acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’, they also have to demonstrate competency in the practice of midwifery as set out by the International Confederation of Midwives,” Hydes said.
Nurse Hydes further stated that a midwife is recognised as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period, to conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the mother and the newborn. Midwives need to be able to detect complications in mother and child and be able to access medical care or other appropriate assistance as well as carry out emergency measures, should the need arise.
“It’s a huge responsibility which requires considerable skill on the part of the midwife,” she said. “I would like to extend a big thank you to all midwives for their hard work and dedicated service to mothers and babies here in the Cayman Islands we well as abroad.”
Ms Yearwood said that the midwife also carries out the important task of health counselling and education, not only for women, but also within the family and the wider community.
“This work involves antenatal education and preparation for parenthood and may extend to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health and child care,” she said.
The role of the midwife is broad and reaches deep into the community. They:
• Provide family planning information and advice.
• Diagnose pregnancies and monitor normal pregnancies.
• Prescribe or advise on the examinations necessary for the earliest possible diagnosis of pregnancies at risk.
• Provide a programme of parenthood preparation.
• Care for and assist the family during labour and to monitor the condition of the baby in the womb by the appropriate clinical and technical means.
• Conduct spontaneous deliveries and perform episiotomies where necessary.
• Recognise the warning signs of abnormality in the mother or infant which necessitate referral to a doctor.
• Examine and care for the new born infant.
• Care for and monitor the progress of the mother and infant in the postnatal period.
• Help establish and encourage demand breast feeding.
• Maintain all necessary records.