A private midwife is a midwife who offers health care services to pregnant women and their babies as a private practitioner. Private midwives, also known as independent midwives, are generally fully trained, qualified, and licensed in their profession. A private midwife typically visits her patients at home to offer prenatal care, birthing services, and up to four weeks of postnatal care for mother and child. Expectant mothers who desire a home birth are most likely to retain the services of a private midwife, though most independent midwives are capable of making any medical referrals deemed necessary for the mother's health and safety. Respecting a mother's wishes to give her the best and safest possible birth experience, whether at home or in the hospital, is usually the private midwife's priority.
Many health care teams today include midwives, who specialize in caring for women throughout pregnancy and birth. Midwives also sometimes look after mother and baby during the first month of the infant's life. Many hospitals employ midwives, so even women who give birth in a hospital setting, under a doctor's care, may be attended by a midwife or team of midwives during pregnancy and birth.
Women who wish to experience a home birth often hire independent midwives to attend to their medical needs during pregnancy and birth. Other women may feel more confident receiving care from a private midwife during pregnancy and birth. Retaining the services of a private midwife can help ensure that the mother receives quality care from the same health professional during the entire pregnancy and birth. Women who choose prenatal and birthing care from a hospital may be receiving care from an entire team of health care professionals, some of whom might be strangers. Many women feel more comfortable receiving this care from a single professional who knows them and their medical history.
An expectant mother who retains the services of a private midwife will generally also see an obstetrician during her pregnancy and may give birth in a hospital. Independent midwives are usually able to offer all of the care that a healthy woman needs during an uncomplicated pregnancy. If complications or dangers arise during pregnancy, a competent private midwife will usually refer her patient to a doctor for more specialized medical care. If dangers arise during birth, the midwife will almost always send her patient to a hospital to give birth under a doctor's care, if possible. The midwife may also seek the assistance of emergency services whenever necessary.