The Silent Epidemic: Midwives and Alcohol Abuse
by Nadine Robinson
Midwives absolutely adore their jobs. And, in reality, it is also an incredibly stressful job.
Midwifery is one of those dream jobs. People are in awe and think we have the best job in the world. And we do! However, the hours are unscheduled, sleep is disrupted, and the stakes are high.
Midwives also work in an environment where bullying, poor outcomes, traumatic events and difficulty in maintaining healthy lifestyle choices are the norm. Have you ever tried to commit to an exercise regime while being on call? How about that new diet where you won’t eat processed foods and only eat WHOLE foods? Yeah, it’s not happening while putting 100km on your car during homevisit day.
Midwifery pay schedules are not commiserate to the hours of on call. I once did my hourly wage based on the hours I was on call; it was well under $20 an hour.
Midwives and Stress
One study in the UK found that 83% of midwives were “experiencing work-related stress”. 1 83% Can you imagine?
While some midwives thrive in this fast-paced, clinically challenging profession, many find that they need extra coping strategies to help get through the workload and difficult call schedule. This often results in substance abuse, particularly alcohol.
There was a joke when I was practicing midwifery that we were all episodic alcoholics. We counted the moments until we were off call. We planned our drinking, right down to the bottles of wine we would drink and who’s patio we would convene at. If it was winter, it was rich bottles of dark red wine, shared meals, and laughter in front of a cozy fire.
I distinctly remember the warm buzz as I dropped into the alcohol induced zone of bliss. Freedom from cares, worries, stress, and on call schedules were erased. Follow up ultrasounds and lab results were not my problem. I no longer had to worry about fetal kick counts or 9pm phone calls because my client had a cold and finally found time to page the pager.
The best part of drinking alcohol? I was out of the game, even if my midwife colleagues were getting slammed. If they called or paged, I couldn’t work. I finally had an acceptable excuse to not attend a birth or take the pager for a few hours.
There is limited evidence of the misuse of alcohol and midwives.
One study 2 found that:
- 10% of midwives worked while under the influence of alcohol.
- Another 27% felt that they needed help but would not seek it out due to the fear of repercussions.
- 37% percent of midwives stated they were worried about their colleague’s substance use. [i]
Another study just released in Australia showed that almost 37% of midwives and nurses were misusing alcohol. 3 I can only imagine the horrors that Covid-19 wreaked on their personal and professional lives. How much worse is it getting?
More research is needed into this subject.
And more supports and creative solutions for midwives need to be applied to our profession so midwives can find a work/life balance in which they thrive and can continue to provide the excellent care to their clients.
If you’ve struggled with alcohol misuse as a midwife, I would encourage you to reach out for help. You deserve it, you aren’t alone and, yes, this job is this hard. You can email me for confidential support at firstname.lastname@example.org
Big WILD love,
PS This is an article I wrote 2 years ago that was rejected by my midwifery association. They told me it “did not promote and advance the profession of midwifery.”
If the professional association isn’t going to help the midwives, who will?
Nadine Robinson is a revolutionary holistic women’s health and relationships expert who has worked with thousands of clients across the globe.
Her clients have been able to successfully manage chronic illnesses, overcome romantic problems like infidelity and even build nine-figure businesses. She weaves the scientific with the spiritual to inspire sustained healing and transformation.
Nadine brings to her clients two decades of experience as a midwife as well as certifications in firewalking, breathwork, and other holistic health practices.
She is the international bestselling author of The Holistic Entrepreneur: Creating Success with the Medicine of your Soul.
She lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but spends her summers at an island home where she frolics on the naked beach. She is blissfully married to the man of her dreams and is a grandmother to three.
1 Hunter B, Fenwick J, Sidebotham M, Henley J. Midwives in the United Kingdom: Levels of burnout, depression, anxiety and stress and associated predictors. Midwifery. 2019 Dec;79:102526. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2019.08.008. Epub 2019 Aug 12. PMID: 31473405. Accessed July 8, 2023
3 Adam Searby a, Dianna Burr a, Glenn Taylor b, Mark Aitken b, Bernice Redley a, Alcohol consumption among Australian Nurses,: A Cross Section National Survey, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1322769622001883, Accessed July 8, 2023