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Empathy and Midwifery with Liz Wilkes

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Episode 27 - The Empathy Podcast

Empathy and Midwifery with Liz Wilkes

Listen on Podomatic or your favourite podcast platform (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google).


In this episode of The Empathy Podcast, Leanne talks to Liz Wilkes from My Midwives about empathy and midwifery. Leanne and Liz discussed the value of Empathy as a midwife and its importance for mums, bubs, families, and societies. They explore the definition of and value of Continuity of Care, how it differs from medical care, why it is so important, and why relationships are vital in the midwifery continuity of care journey. Liz is a private practice midwife who has been working as a midwife since 1995. Liz has the goal to ensure that every woman in Australia has a midwife who she knows providing care at birth. This is the most beautiful discussion of motherhood and midwifery and I encourage you to share it with mums, dads, families as well as mums- and dads-to-be.

13 second snippet:

Watch full episode:


● [01:31] - About Liz and her professional history

● [04:12] - Continuity of Care with a Midwife vs. an obstetrician

● [07:11] - The value of the continuity of care model

● [11:00] - The impact of negative stories about childbirth

● [12:47] - Risk involved in the medical model for mums and bubs

● [16:31] - The elements of birth debriefing

● [17:44] - The relationship between fear and physiology

● [18:59] - The kind of relationship a midwife and the client shares

● [22:00] - The difference between My Midwives and a medical model

● [24:14] - The mantra of My Midwives

● [26:19] - Facilitating the partner's love for birthing mother.

● [28:26] - Birth centres and hospitals of My Midwives

● [30:30] - Resistance to continuity of care for midwives

● [32:57] - Liz's favorite thing about being a midwife

● [36:34] - What midwifery does for a community

● [37:46] - Deeping the client-midwife relationship while the managing risks and traumas

● [40:40] - Mental health is a constant conversation in midwifery

● [43:08] - The issue of fatigue management


About Liz

Liz is a private practice midwife. She started in Midwife Continuity Care (where a midwife looks after the same woman from early in pregnancy, right through labour, birth, and their postnatal period). She has worked in both the hospital sector and in private practice providing high birth care. During 2009-2010 she was involved in Maternity reforms and getting Medicare for midwives. She has set up Australia's most extensive private midwifery practice, My Midwives.

Continuity of care with a Midwife vs. an Obstetric care

Liz says, "it's just not comparing apples and apples. It's a different model altogether. Obviously, there are some benefits to having the same obstetrician throughout. But the difference is that the obstetrician isn't actually beside the woman throughout their labour, and their postnatal period either. So the continuity of an obstetric model lies with the antenatal period. They are kind of on-call and in there for their labour and birth, but they're not actually walking alongside the woman for that whole journey. So it's not really strong relational care."

The reason why people don't know about the Continuity of Care Model

Liz shares, "The reason that people don't know about it is that, in Australia, motherhood sits in a funny place in terms of not valuing mothering as an experience. We can dig into that in all sorts of political and philosophical ways as to why we've moved towards a medical model.

We've never gone back and unpacked the fact that while there are lots of really good things within the medical model but there are also a lot of things that we've lost in changing to a very medicalized model. And one of the things that we've lost is the depth of relational care."

The risk involved in the medical model for mums and bubs

On asking about the risks involved in the medical model for mums and bubs, Liz says, We're getting a growing body of research that's demonstrating all kinds of stuff. Such as the negative impact of disrupting natural oxytocin on the mother / baby dyad. (Oxytocin is the hormone that controls the whole labour process, but also controls bonding, feeding, love, and is involved in sex etc).

The difference between My Midwives and a medical model

Everything is different. The space is different; the language is different; the relationship is different because you're looking at a partnership model. A professional friendship is a way you can almost describe the midwife/client relationship because you're actually going through and learning about a person in a way far different from what you meet in a ward or a clinic if you're a doctor.


"Not having relational care is impacting women's anxiety and postnatal depression."

"Every single person has got something inside them which is unique and powerful."


My Midwives:

Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.

Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.

Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.

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