Midwife Burnout: A Brief Summary

This week I have seen midwife burnout rear its head more than a few times. This is an issue close to my heart and one I dedicate my research to on a daily basis. Being a registered midwife and having practised through turbulent times myself, I know how it feels to give all that you have and yet forget to put yourself first at any time. You become a burnt out midwife, unable to give the highest quality or safest maternity care.

Here’s how it may happen…


The recent National  Maternity Review highlighted that midwives were more likely than any other professional group to report feeling pressured at work. Also, levels of staff stress in the NHS are the highest of any sector and staff consistently report a lack of compassion shown to them from leaders and managers within their organisations.

I find this incredibly sad…. We want to care so much for women and their babies…yet we fail to care for ourselves and each other.

The latest  work-related stress guidance cites one of my paper’s, which claims that “Midwives are entitled to a psychologically safe professional journey”… This is wonderful to see…but will we ever see midwives being cared for in equal partnership with the women and families they care for?

A colleague of mine recently noted that ‘as soon as we say that patients come first…we immediately devalue the staff’….

This got me thinking….and writing this blog post.

In the midwifery news this week:

I have come across the following articles in one way or another…

The experience of professional burnout can be one of extreme personal pain which some midwives feel they may never recover from. Despite global recognition of the destructive phenomenon of burnout, midwives may not understand what was happening to them. They can feel judged as managing their practices poorly, experience isolated feelings of shame, and feel unable to disclose their escalating need for help.

Young, C. M., Smythe, L., & Couper, J. M. (2015). Burnout: Lessons from the lived experience of case loading midwives. International Journal of Childbirth, 5(3), 154-165.

My 3 latest papers have addressed the issue of midwife burnout and psychological distress in great detail…I shall be publishing more shortly… for further reading see:

Pezaro, S. The midwifery workforce:  A global picture of psychological distress – ARTICLEinMIDWIVES: OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF MIDWIVES 19:33 · MARCH 2016

Pezaro S (2016) Addressing psychological distress in midwives. Nursing Times; 112: 8, 22-23.

Pezaro, S., Clyne, W., Turner, A., Fulton, E. A., & Gerada, C. (2015). ‘Midwives overboard! ‘Inside their hearts are breaking, their makeup may be flaking but their smile still stays on. Women and Birth. In press.

Midwife burnout is rarely understood…Yet one thing is clear, we really do need to find new ways to support each other and look after ourselves for the benefit of all midwives working within midwifery profession, and the families we care for.

This week I will continue to write my systematic literature review which aims to identify the nature and existence of interventions designed to support midwives in work-related psychological distress, and their effectiveness at improving the psychological well-being of midwives.

Once this is complete, we will be one step closer towards effectively supporting midwives in work-related psychological distress.

Until then, look after yourselves…and each other.


6 thoughts on “Midwife Burnout: A Brief Summary

  1. Very true, women have multi complex medical issues with social issues as well,staff having to take another patient sometimes straight after a delivery,constant concerns of being investigated and finding errors that have nothing to do with the incident is worrying midwives. Exhaustion from 13 HR shifts, 60 HR weeks in some cases and then 15 the next week!! Although contracts are 37.5 hrs per week! Dangerous! Fear of going to managers to complain then told to swap it yourself!….I could go on!! Junior midwives will have two careers in life time as they will not be able to sustain life long career in midwifery unless they are very part time.


  2. An amazing video. I cried.
    I suffered burn out,five years ago. I felt ashamed I wasn’t coping.
    I was exhausted all the time .
    My mental health suffered. I was off work for about 9 weeks. My managers were supportive so was the occupational health team. I returned but I was never as passionate about my work as before. As I was then 53years old I was able to exit midwifery as retirement at 55 years old. It was a very difficult time for me, my family, my colleagues and my mothers. I was never the same person after this experience.


  3. I retired in March. Totally burnt out. I could no longer live with the fear of making a mistake due to all the demands. Mainly for paperwork. I could no longer give the care I wanted to give to women due to all the documentation I needed to make.
    Who in their right mind believes that working 12 hour shifts is good for women or midwives? I don’t want a midwife who’s been on a busy shift for 10-11 hours looking after my daughter. I know how inefficient I feel after 10hours on shift. It’s madness!!
    The midwives who like to work long shifts. Cite ” more days off” as a reason. I’ve never heard a midwife say it enables her/him to give better care


  4. Pingback: Mindfulness and Self-Care in Midwifery | #healthystaff4healthypatients

  5. Please think of the lead midwives too, those managers that have to manage, its often a very thankless task with long hours and sadly little satisfaction, they absorb everyone’s concerns and anger. They try and make things better but are often the “squeezed middle” not enough power to act but many sleepless nights worrying about their staff and the service provided to women who are the centre of everything we do. Were not “them” but often clinical midwives of old who decided to take the risk of a senior management role and are paying the price. Burnout occurs everywhere.


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