Health is viewed as a state of wellbeing in which the individual is seeking, or is directed toward, self-actualisation and complete development. At the same time it is recognised that the health of women and communities has been, and continues to be, influenced, by the environment. A social model of health does not reject the importance of science and pathogens as causes of disturbances in the efficient functioning of the body, but it does enlarge the landscape of causative factors.
Reproductive health care involves pre-conceptual care up to six weeks postpartum. Science, research, midwives and women combine to form a foundation of midwifery practice.
The position of girls and women in society is an important determinant of their reproductive health status. All women require care in pregnancy and childbirth which is not only safe but also meets their individual psychological, emotional, physical and social needs, including spiritual needs. The midwife seeks to meet the holistic needs of the woman in a sensitive and competent manner, acting as her advocate and working in partnership with her and her family to promote a satisfying experience of childbirth and motherhood.
Fundamental to the professional practice of midwives is the professional ethos that underpins all that a midwife does and how he/she functions in society. The midwife's professional duty is to act at all times to ensure the wellbeing of the childbearing woman and her baby within the relevant legal and ethical standards of midwifery practice. Relationships with other health professionals exist that enable working with them in a collaborative manner. Midwifery includes information about current issues related to women, midwives, maternity care, health and the health care system.
Competent midwifery practice is the combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and abilities that underpin effective performance. The core set of midwifery skills include managing normal pregnancy and childbirth and providing effective postnatal maternal and newborn care. Other health professionals work with the midwife in an enabling maternity care environment for the management of obstetric and neonatal complications.
The midwife has the ability and skills to analyse and reflect on and about practice. This includes interpreting evidence as a basis to inform practice, policy, guidelines and decision-making. This implies an understanding about the way that knowledge and evidence are continuously created, applied and recreated. The development of critical self-awareness is essential to this reflective process and is a defining characteristic of a professional midwife.