“As a midwife, you experience evolution right in front of your eyes, helping someone make that transition to parenthood," said Kate Lyons, Midwife Manager at the Labour Ward in Cork University Maternity Hospital.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted maternity wards nationally, separating pregnant women and newly delivered babies from their families but Ms Lyons said that midwives are still there to 'hold women's hands' through it all.
“We work through storms, Christmas, everything, 24/7 so a pandemic is no different. We’ll be there for women and their babies.
“And you can’t deliver a baby from the other side of the room. We’re holding the woman’s hand, helping her breath through contractions. We’re highly trained and we learn to know what a woman is saying without her having to use words."
Tomorrow, May 5 marks International Day of the Midwife in what it is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
“It makes me so proud as a midwife to see my colleagues so dedicated, taking personal risks to help others," Ms Lyons said.
CUMH has had no confirmed cases of Covid-19 so far, but before anyone enters the hospital they are checked for symptoms and a temperature, and any suspected cases are brought to a specific area of the hospital where they can isolate.
Partners are discouraged from attending hospital until the mother is in active labour and must leave after the baby is born.
“To maximise the quality of time for dads, we encourage them to have skin-to-skin contact and to take pictures and video of the baby and audio of their heart beat before they go," Ms Lyons said.
"The day of discharge is incredibly emotional. Handing the baby and mother back to the partner, watching them hug and the partner look into the baby’s face and take ownership."
Post-pandemic, she hopes to see more midwife-led care and more choice of care for women.
“I’d like to see the midwife’s role developed to its full potential. We’re autonomous and highly trained. We can deliver a baby, suture, insert an IV line, provide life-saving medication and recognise the need for an obstetrician.
“Most pregnancies are straight-forward and don’t need to be medicalised. A woman’s body knows what to do. We try to make women feel empowered by the process."
The word 'midwife' means ‘with woman’ and never have midwives been with women more than now, said Norma Kissane, Clinical Midwife Manager at University Hospital Kerry.
“We're there, guiding them through everything, helping and supporting them," Ms Kissane said.
“There’s a lot of compassion and passion in what we do. We’re changing the world one family at a a time."
University Hospital Kerry is part of the Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate, a network of maternity hospitals led by CUMH which aims to share information and promote ever-greater care.
The pandemic may lead to some post-Covid changes with more low-risk patients being seen outside the hospital and with more early discharges so that women could go home six hours after a vaginal birth and 42 hours after a caesarean section, Ms Kissane said.
Linda O’Callaghan Clinical Placement Coordinator (Midwifery) at University Hospital Waterford said that the pandemic has also impacted training for student midwives.
“First, second and third year placements were pulled when college came to an end," she said. "All that’s left is the fourth year interns. It will delay career progression.
"Some students' clinical placements have been cancelled and they can’t graduate without them.
"Everything is very fluid but I’m there to reassure the fourth years."
Ms O'Callaghan said that students are now being taught about wellbeing and stress management to help them cope through these trying times.
"I’ve never seen the amount of stress in my career as in the last eight weeks," she said.
"Covid-19 is part of life now. It is changing the face of healthcare. Our students will tell this story to their grandchildren. It’s the equivalent of their war."