The current model of obstetric care in South Africa does not give midwives the credit they deserve, according to Suzette Bester-Cloete, who is the founder and CEO of Origin Family-Centred Maternity Hospital, which is the first family-centred and midwife-led maternity hospital in the Western Cape.
"Obstetricians are seen as the experts in natural birth and the primary care givers of low-risk pregnant women in South Africa. However, midwives are the experts in natural birth," she maintains.
Internationally evidence-based research shows that midwives are the experts in looking after women during pregnancy and birth, says Bester-Cloete.
"Midwives spend an average of 10 hours with a women in labour, while an obstetrician on average will only be with the women for the actual delivery of the baby. He might do a few routine checks during the labour, but a midwife's input during the support of a women in labour takes everything out of her - she provides support emotionally, physically and medically."
A model of maternity care
Bester-Cloete, who gave birth to her two children in water, supported by a midwife, doula and obstetrician, also became a doula to support other women in birth with the aim of making this model of maternity care available to more women in South Africa.
She wants to change the way women give birth in South Africa. "Midwives are the unsung heroes of birth and they need to make it their speciality in South Africa."
To help make this a reality, Bester-Cloete will be opening the doors of the largest private maternity birth boutique hospital in SA to mentor postgraduate Midwifery and medical participants.
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"We are going to carry out training of students who are on their Advanced Midwifery training programme; and are going to sponsor them to do an internship or observation.
"We need to breed and cultivate the next generation of midwives through our mentor programme, because my daughter and then granddaughter need to give birth in this country."
Renowned local midwife and trainer Sydney Grove, who has assisted at over 23 000 births and was instrumental in pioneering water birth as a medical, written procedure in South Africa, has been appointed as Chief Operations Officer of Origin.
Trail-blazing a new direction for midwives
He says the model of care founded by Bester-Cloete, out of scientific principles and well-based research, operationally is set to trail-blaze a new direction for midwives in this country.
"The midwives appointed so far all have 20-plus years of experience, and all have an advanced diploma or master's level qualification in midwifery practice. They are practitioners of the midwifery profession, looking after women during pregnancy and in labour and making that space sacred."
Origin's doors will open on 1 December 2015 in Parow.
The facility boasts 6 luxurious birthing suites, each with a water birth pool, en-suite bathrooms and queen-size beds for father/family to stay over, plus three standard, well-equipped birth rooms, and three separate postnatal double rooms, all with en suite bathrooms.
There is also one major operating theatre equipped for emergencies, a coffee shop, large training room/board room, and full- time/sessional rooms for doctors and therapists.
Origin is also fully equipped should a caesarean section be necessary for medical reasons. The Clinical Risk Committee is made up of external specialist consultants including executive nurses, specialist doctors and medico-legal specialists.