pregnant woman care sign vectorSupport for parents: how supervisors of midwives can help


Who are Supervisors of midwives?

Supervisors of midwives (SOMs) are experienced, practising midwives who have completed additional education and training so that they can oversee and support midwives in providing safe, high quality care to new and expectant parents, their babies and families.


What is their role?

Every midwife has a named SOM – this includes midwives who are working in NHS maternity units and Birth Centres, in private maternity units, or are working as self-employed (Independent) midwives. Each SOM will meet with their allocated midwife supervisees annually to support them in their ongoing professional development. This might include supporting a midwife in undertaking additional specialist education and training, or helping them to gain expertise in a different area of practice eg a community midwife coming into hospital to work on its Labour ward and vice versa.

SOMs help to ensure that you, your baby and family receive the individualised care that you need – ie the ‘right care for you’. Also, that maternity care is provided by the right person in the right place. This means that should the nature of your pregnancy or any existing (underlying) medical condition make your pregnancy more complex, you receive care from an obstetrician as well as your midwife and local GP.


How could a Supervisor of midwives help me?

A SOM can help and support you in a variety of ways:

a). They can help to ensure that you receive the care that you need in the right place. For example, you may wish to have a homebirth but there are factors relating to your current pregnancy or past pregnancies where this may not be the safest location for your baby’s birth. A SOM can talk through these concerns with you and together you can consider all the options available. This might include having your baby in hospital or a birth unit, followed by early transfer home; or where you decide that you still wish to have a homebirth, ensuring that all the necessary support is available (eg suitably experienced midwives, paramedics etc). The SOM will support you and your midwife.

b). Where you have any concerns about the type of care that you are receiving/have received during your pregnancy, birth, or the postnatal period, you can talk these through with a SOM. They will listen to your concerns and can provide any explanations or clarification as necessary. Where additional information is required or there needs to be discussion with the wider maternity healthcare team, a SOM can facilitate this and act as an intermediary and your advocate.

c). A SOM can also monitor the attitude and conduct of the midwives caring for you to ensure that they are meeting the professional standards expected of a registrant on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Midwifery Register.


How do I contact a SOM?

There should be a SOM available 24/7 in every UK maternity service. Should you wish to speak with one, you can contact your local maternity unit and the switchboard will put you through to the on-call supervisor at that time. Alternatively, you may wish to speak with a SOM who is independent of the unit where you are receiving/have received your maternity care. Where this is the case, you may wish to speak with the Local Supervising Authority Midwifery Officer (LSAMO). The LSAMO is a senior practising midwife who occupies more of a leadership role within the statutory supervision of midwives. LSAMOs appoint SOMs and can advise you about the supervision of midwives. You can contact the LSAMO directly or ask the maternity unit to contact them on your behalf and ask that the LSAMO get in contact with you.


What happens if I still have concerns?

UK maternity units will always encourage parents, midwives and SOMs to work together in partnership, so that new and expectant parents feel involved in their care and enjoy a safe, fulfilling birth experience and transition to parenthood. Your local maternity unit will therefore, do their upmost to resolve the situation and a SOM will offer to listen to your concerns, answer any questions and clarify any potential misunderstanding. However, should you continue to have unresolved concerns about your midwife you can make a complaint to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

McCarthy R (2010). What has supervision of midwives got to do with parents? New Digest (51): July: 15.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2012). Supervisors of midwives: how they can help you.London: Nursing and Midwifery Council. 6 pages.