In New Zealand > Midwifery in New Zealand > Autonomy

Midwifery: An Autonomous Profession

Midwifery in New Zealand regained its status as an autonomous profession in 1990. The Nurses Amendment Act of that year restored the professional and legal separation of midwifery from nursing and established midwifery and nursing in New Zealand as separate and distinct professions. The legal changes in 1990 also made it possible to offer pre-registration midwifery education to people with no previous nursing registration (i.e direct entry midwifery).

Midwifery is a profession with a distinct body of knowledge and its own Scope of Practice, Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. The midwifery profession has knowledge, skills and abilities to provide a primary complete maternity service to childbearing women on its own responsibility.

Midwives work in many ways to provide maternity services to women and their whanau. All midwives are expected to work in partnership with women, providing or supporting continuity of midwifery care throughout the woman’s childbirth experience. Midwives work collaboratively with other health professionals when necessary to meet any additional medical, health or social needs of mothers and their babies.

Midwives may be self-employed providing continuity-of-care to individual women and their families as Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs); employed by District Health Boards (DHBs) to provide a continuity-of-care service; or employed by DHBs to provide 24 hour, rostered shift cover in a maternity facility. Approximately half of New Zealand’s midwives are self employed while the other half are employed. A small percentage of employed midwives are employed as caseloading midwives to provide LMC services.

Midwives work in partnerships with other midwives, as practices of midwives, as part of continuity-of-care teams or as core rostered-shift staff in hospitals. All midwives contribute to the safe and effective maternity services in New Zealand. The vast majority of pregnant women in New Zealand now choose a midwife as their Lead Maternity Carer. The maternity service in New Zealand has undergone massive significant in the last decade and these changes continue. The outcomes for women having total midwifery care are very good and the perinatal mortality rate has never been lower. Women are increasingly satisfied with their maternity experience.