International Day of the Midwife: 5 things you should know

UNICEF/Vishwanathan An Auxiliary Nurse Midwife performs critical ante-natal services in Shrawasti, India.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Why are midwives important? What impact have they had on mothers’ and babies’ health? As the United Nations celebrates midwives across the world on Sunday, here are five things you should know about the critical role they play in communities.

  1. Midwives save millions of lives each year

The world has seen a steady decline in maternal and newborn deaths since 1990, in large part because more women are receiving skilled midwifery care: from 67 per cent in 2010 to 79 per cent in 2017. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), quality midwifery reduces maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent.

Yet hundreds of thousands of women and newborns continue to die each year during pregnancy and childbirth. The UN estimates that 303,000 women and about 2.7 million newborn babies died in 2015 alone.  According to the UN Sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, today, the maternal mortality ratio stands at 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is more than 800 women dying every day while giving life. Most of these deaths are preventable and the vast majority of these women lost their lives due to complications and illnesses that could have been prevented with proper ante-natal, delivery and post-natal care – services provided by midwives.

  1. Beyond survival, midwives offer critical medical care

Even though the maternal and newborn death rate is declining, pregnancy and childbirth remain risky for the health of many women around the world. For every woman who dies in childbirth, an estimated 20 to 30 encounter injuries, infections or disabilities during labour. According to WHO, midwives can deliver 87 per cent of all essential sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health services.

Midwives also provide counselling and services, and they can perform breast and cervical cancer screenings. If authorized by their countries, they can perform basic emergency obstetric care.

One of the most serious childbirth injuries is obstetric fistula – a hole in the birth canal that can develop during a prolonged, obstructed labour. UNFPA says its impact on women is “catastrophic,” as fistula survivors often experience incontinence, chronic medical problems and social isolation. It is estimated that over 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with fistula, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop every year. Yet, this condition is almost entirely preventable when women have access to timely, high-quality care.

Quality midwifery care also  improves breastfeeding rates and psycho-social outcomes, reducing the use of interventions, in particular caesarean sections. What’s more, as members of their communities, midwives are also able to provide culturally sensitive care that is more likely to have a lasting impact.

  1. Midwives are critical defenders of the rights of women

Midwives also do much to advance women’s and girls’ rights. By providing information and counselling, they can provide help with family planning; they help prevent female genital mutilation (FGM); they can offer support and assistance to survivors of gender-based violence; and they can provide reproductive health services to adolescents, who are often denied access to these services at great cost to their health and rights.

Thanks in large part to the role played by midwives, overall today, women are more likely to become mothers by choice, not chance. In the past 25 years, contraceptive prevalence increased by 25 per cent. In 1994, the birth rate among adolescents – girls aged 15 to 19 – was 65 births per 1,000 women. Today, that number is 44 births per 1,000 women.

Despite these gains, many women and adolescent girls still do not exercise full control over their own bodies and reproduction as more than 200 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using safe and effective modern contraception. And although rates of adolescent pregnancy have fallen, they remain high in many parts of the world, particularly areas where access to contraceptives is low and rates of child marriage are high.

Watch this statement from Elizabeth Iro, WHO’s Chief Nursing Officer, who explains why midwives are key defenders of the rights of women:

  1. There’s a midwife shortage

Despite all the above-mentioned progress, there is a long way to go. Midwives are in short supply in many developing countries, and they often lack the skills and supportive environment to perform their jobs well. The deficits are highest in the areas where needs are greatest.

Today, 73 countries from which data was collected have 96 per cent of the world’s maternal deaths, but only 42 per cent of the world’s midwives, nurses and doctors. Some 30 million women do not give birth in a health facility and 45 million receive inadequate ante-natal care.

There are many challenges to increasing the availability of midwifery services. Despite the enormous responsibilities they bear, midwives – who are overwhelmingly women – frequently endure poor pay, low status and a lack of support, according to UNFPA. The agency also notes that gender biases often play a role in the problems midwives experience.

  1.  The UN is working hard to strengthen midwifery worldwide

The UN advocates for the strengthening of the midwifery workforce worldwide. WHO and UNFPA offer midwifery education, trainings, and policy guidance to scale up the number of skilled midwives, especially in low-income countries and nations with the highest rates of maternal mortality.

In the past decade, UNFPA has helped train over 115,000 midwives; provided books, equipment and training materials to over 700 midwifery schools; trained over 8,500 midwifery tutors; and supported over 250 national and sub-national midwifery associations and their branches. Over 80 countries now follow a competency-based midwifery curriculum that is based on global standards.

In addition, the focus of the 2019 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030 is midwifery. WHO and UNFPA, along with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Confederation of Midwives, will be issuing a report and action plan to strengthen quality midwifery education. It will be presented to the 194 Member States of WHO in May.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Why we need a moderate approach to moderating online content

Real EU unemployment rate at 10.2%+4.1%+4.7%: Eurostat Update

OECD warns global economy remains weak as subdued trade drags down growth

Mergers: Commission clears Telia’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, subject to conditions

AIDEX 2015: Humanitarian Hero Award Winner Announced

Medical deserts in the European Union: the practicalities of universal health coverage

EU and China seize momentum to enhance trade agreements in response to Trump’s administration

We’re all in the same boat on the SDGs. Here’s how we steer a course

UN rights experts call on Russia to release Ukrainian film-maker whose life is in ‘imminent danger’

G20 LIVE: “Re-envisioning the economy to enable women to reach their full potential” live from Antalya Turkey

How to test if Kiev’s ‘Maidan’ was an authentic revolt or a well-planned operation

The challenges of Chinese investment in Latin America

The EU now has rules that say household appliances must be easier to fix

Building an Inclusive ICT Innovation Ecosystem

“Financial crisis will not happen in China!”, the Chinese Premier underlines from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Tiny Iceland teaches the West how to treat bankers

China is sending science students to live with rural farmers – and crop yields are skyrocketing

EU summit: Are the London Tories planning an exit from the EU?

Monday’s Daily Brief: the cost of maternal healthcare, Sudan and Chad updates, sustainability in focus

EU Commission – US hasten talks to avoid NGO reactions on free trade agreement

Haiti stands ‘at the crossroads’ between peacekeeping, development – Bachelet urges strengthened ‘human rights protection’

The future of crypto-assets, from opportunities to policy implications

UN General Assembly President defends ‘landmark’ migration compact

A multipolar world brings back the national champions

2014 budget: The EU may prove unable to agree on own resources

Can India reduce deaths on one hazardous road to zero? This group is trying

Four ways innovation can help to beat heart disease

Almost there: Equal healthcare for LGBTQI+

8th Euronest Assembly: the future of relations with Eastern partners

Impact Investment needs global standards and better measurement

“There are many converging visions and interests between the One Belt One Road initiative and the Juncker Investment Plan”, Ambassador Yang of the Chinese Mission to EU highlights from Brussels

The 27 EU leaders did nothing to help May unlock the Brexit talks

‘We must fight terrorism together’ without sacrificing legal and human rights, declares UN chief

Governments must act to help struggling middle class

State aid: France to recover €8.5 million of illegal aid to Ryanair at Montpellier airport

New seat projections for the next European Parliament EU28

EFSF/ESM boss tells half truths about Troika’s doings

Trade is not a weapon. Let’s not use it as one

How the United States is falling in love with secondhand clothes

How fintech is setting Southeast Asia’s SMEs free

This lethal fungus is threatening to wipe out the world’s bananas

Fuel crisis rapidly draining last ‘coping capacities’ of Palestinians in Gaza

The Ultimate Career Choice: General Practice Specialist

Unemployment and stagnation can tear Eurozone apart if austere policies persist

We can save the Earth. Here’s how

A revolution, an ecosystem, an ocean: 5G is just the beginning

Water inequality used to be a developing world problem only. Not any more

Tuberculosis infections declining, but not fast enough among poor, marginalised: UN health agency

Nuclear weapons in Lithuania: defence against Russia or target for terrorists?

Special measures for Greece: 100% absorption rate

This air taxi uses 5G to ‘see’ around corners

Faith can overcome religious nationalism. Here’s how

EU budget: the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020

Coldplay stop touring to save the world: is pop music going sustainable?

5 reasons to be more cheerful about the future of the oceans

In Venezuela, Bachelet calls on Government to release prisoners, appeals for ‘bold steps towards compromise’

New study shows close link between GVCs participation and economic development

Could robot leaders do better than our current politicians?

The Philippines is reopening a ‘cesspool’ island after a six month clean up

Security Council condemns ‘heinous and cowardly’ attack in Iran

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s