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A public e-survey to explore community understanding of the role of the midwife in Australia

McKellar, Lois; Brown, Angela; Adelson, Pamela


Angela Brown

Pamela Adelson


There is compelling evidence that when a woman sees the same midwife there are better outcomes. Yet in Australia, access to midwifery continuity of care remains limited. There are a number of reasons for this but one barrier appears to be a lack of public understanding regarding the role of the midwife. This study undertook an e-survey to explore Australian public perceptions of the role of the midwife.

A public opinion sample e-survey, using an exploratory design, a Likert scale and open-ended questions, was distributed through social media over six weeks. The survey was open to Australian residents and was completed by 1657 participants. Of these, 96.9% identified as female and 82.1% of participants had children.

Nearly half of the participants believed that a woman must see a doctor during pregnancy and after birth, compared to 21.9% during birth. Many participants described midwives as caring and supportive but there was a lack of understanding about their level of skill and expertise. A dominant theme was the alignment of medical care with safety and the perception that medical practitioners reduce risk. These misperceptions may impact on women making an informed choice regarding midwifery model of care in Australia.

There is an underlying public narrative whereby the public primarily associate midwives with birth and perceive them as assistants rather than lead care providers. The study findings informed a public awareness campaign in South Australia conducted to educate the public’s understanding of the role of the midwife.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 14, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 29, 2019
Publication Date 2019-11
Deposit Date Jun 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2022
Journal European Journal of Midwifery
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Keywords midwifery, midwife, public awareness, continuity of care, model of care
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