Stopping Midwifery Burnout in its Tracks

Stopping Midwifery Burnout in its Tracks

Midwifery burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. “Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout. Researchers point out that individual factors, such as personality traits and family life, influence who experiences job burnout. Whatever the cause, midwifery burnout can affect your physical and mental health. Consider how to know if you’ve got midwifery burnout and what you can do about it.

Midwife burnout symptoms

Ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing job burnout. Consider talking to a doctor or a mental health provider because these symptoms can also be related to health conditions, such as depression.

Stopping Midwifery Burnout in its Tracks

Possible causes of midwifery burnout

Midwifery burnout can result from various factors, including:

  • Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your profession — such as your schedule, workload, or when the babies decide to come — could lead to midwifery burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your midwifery role.
  • Unclear midwifery expectations. Sometimes not being the type of midwife you envisioned when going on this path versus what medical health care system has turned you into can make midwifery burnout more prevalent.  Many of us dream of Iny May Gaskin with the Farm utopia and get stuck being mini doctors in the hospitals.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Maybe all of your team is burnt out by demands of birth and unpredictability of work / life balance.  That negative work culture behind the scenes that clients don’t see just feeds on itself.  You need to get abundance and positivity back into the team’s minds.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and midwifery burnout. You can be running and running from birth to birth, office and home visits to nothing for a couple days.  We don’t do enough self-care during those quiet days to prepare for the crazy ones!
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed. Many midwives feel very alone in their practice and community.  We don’t nearly get enough support from family, friends, midwives, and clients to make midwifery burnout unavoidable.
  • Work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.

Midwifery burnout risk factors

The following factors may contribute to midwifery burnout:

  • You have a heavy workload and work long hours
  • You struggle with work-life balance
  • You work in a helping profession, such as health care
  • You feel you have little or no control over your work

Consequences of midwifery burnout

Too many midwives stop practicing versus finding best ways to get through midwifery burnout.  The most recent data shows that professional burnout causes midwives and health care professionals to leave their professions in 7 years. Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses

Handling midwifery burnout

Try to take action. To get started:

  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

Keep an open mind as you consider the options. Try not to let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health.  We love helping midwives with burnout and improving their practice flow to get out of the rough patch in their lives.  We can help with work / life balance, self-care, improving business operations, and realigning your midwifery dreams with your current life demands.  We are here for you and know that any midwife can get out of any crisis happening in their lives with proper support, resources, and time!

Enrol to our course How to Prevent and Recover from Midwifery Burnout