Dealing with difficult births as a midwife

August 31, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Working as a midwife involves caring for women during their pregnancy and assisting during childbirth. In the majority of cases, babies are born healthy, and the delivery does well. Unfortunately, there are also some instances when a birth is difficult and does not go according to plans. As a midwife, one of your responsibilities is to quickly recognize problems and intervene appropriately.

Why difficult births occur

A difficult birth can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, a baby may not come through the birth canal as nature intended. Normally, a baby is born head first. But in some cases, the baby gets turned around and comes feet or buttocks first. Some babies are also too large to fit through the birth canal.

In other cases, a baby may not tolerate labor and might develop a decreased heart rate. Umbilical cord problems and maternal uncontrolled bleeding can also lead to complications.

Remaining focused

The majority of the births you will attend go well. But the odds are at some point, you’ll have to deal with a difficult birth. As a midwife, your patients rely on you to be professional and competent in the event of an emergency. It’s important for midwives to remember the following:

Stay calm: It’s critical you remain calm when dealing with a difficult birth. Your demeanor will also help your patient stay calm. Staying calm will help you focus on the task at hand and avoid making mistakes.

Rely on training: Although most births are routine, you also have the training to deal with difficult situations. Whether the problem is with the mom or the baby, rely on your skills and trust your judgment.

Seek help: There are instances where midwives need help. If you’re at a home birth, it might mean you call 911 and transport your patient to the emergency room. If you are attending a birth in a hospital and run into a difficult situation or complications, get help from other staff members.

Maintain communication: It’s understandable that when something goes wrong during labor parents will get scared. While you’re dealing with the situation, try to keep your patient informed about what is happening. 

Baby loss

Midwives have the opportunity to experience the joys of seeing a new life brought into the world. But there is also a painful side to the profession. Occasionally, a baby will not survive, and parents will grieve the loss of their child. It can be one of the most difficult situations a midwife will deal with. Try to keep the following things in mind:

Offer support: Offer the parents any resources available, such as a chaplain, counselor or social worker. Give parents time to see and hold their baby if they want.

Evaluate the situation: After the event, review the situation to determine if you should have done anything differently. A careful review of what happened is not to beat yourself up. Instead, it’s to learn from the situation and make any changes you think are necessary.

Deal with your own emotions: Losing a patient is always difficult. But for a midwife, if the loss is a baby, it is especially heartbreaking. Allow yourself time to deal with your emotions.

The job undoubtedly has its difficult moments, but if you’re destined for a career in midwifery you will be more than capable of taking the rough with the smooth. To see first-hand what the life of a midwife really entails, we offer dedicated midwifery placements in every one of our destinations.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.