Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 1: Word to Midwives

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Chapter 1: Word to Midwives

To work for the health and well-being of women and babies — that is, to be a midwife — you must be willing to learn, to treat people with respect and compassion, and to work together with others to meet the health needs of the community.

Learning is lifelong

The first step on the path to becoming a midwife — or any kind of health worker — is learning from others. And even the most experienced midwives continue to learn and gain new skills throughout their whole lives.

Midwives learn from experience and from books and classes. Each way of learning is important. All midwives should find a balance between study and practice.

Books and study help midwives understand a broad range of information But practice is the only way to learn the skills needed to care for women and babies.
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a woman speaking while she touches a pregnant woman; another woman watches.
This is the baby's head.

Experienced midwives continue to learn

There is always more to know about birth and about health. Every birth is different, medical information changes, and there are new skills to be learned. As long as you are a midwife you can:

two women speaking while one helps a woman give birth and the other carries a bowl.
Bring the warm water, then come watch.

  • watch how other midwives, health workers, and doctors do things.
  • ask the women and families you work with what they like and do not like about the care that you give.
  • read books or other written materials. Keep helpful books with you so you can look up information you do not use regularly or remember.
  • learn new skills. If you can get the training and tools to do new procedures safely, do not be afraid to learn a new skill. This will allow you to help more women in your community and to become a better midwife.

Midwives learn from teachers, books, and other midwives and health workers. Mostly they learn safe ways to practice. But as any midwife gains more experience, she will discover that some of what she learned is not the safest or most effective way to care for women.

Midwives must be willing to change their ideas when they learn new ways of practicing so they are always practicing in the best ways they can. Midwives must look honestly at the ways they practice to be sure they are working well — whether they learned these practices from doctors, traditional healers, or anyone else.

Asking "why?"

Asking “why” is important because it helps you do more than just remember what you have been told or what you have read. When you know why, you can make decisions even when there is no person or book to tell you exactly what to do. You can also adapt a treatment or tool to be of use in a way that others may not use it. Finally, asking “why” is important for understanding the causes of problems — to treat problems effectively, and to prevent them from happening again.