Midwifery is one of the world’s oldest professions and midwives have been ‘with woman’ (the literal translation for the word ‘midwife’) for thousands of generations. The work of skilled midwives is invaluable in ensuring the wellbeing of expectant mothers, new mothers and their newborns.
Throughout the years, midwifery as a profession has been subject to a plethora of misunderstandings, some as extreme as equating midwives with witchcraft. Even in the present day, at best, the role of the midwife is often misconceived as being simply about assisting births. Midwives around the world are undervalued. In the United States, laws prevent midwives from providing the full scope of care for which they are qualified. In the United Kingdom, midwives have recently been striking to get the pay increase they deserve. In parts of Asia, anecdotal evidence suggests that midwives are either wannabe doctors that failed to make the grade for medical school or poorly educated women who are unable to find any better work. In this year’s State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) report, it was highlighted that in some of the poorest nations of the world, women seek medical rather than midwifery care because midwives are socially undervalued and receiving medical care gives a families a greater social status.
In the recent Lancet Series on Midwifery, midwives are hailed as “a core part of universal health coverage.” In addition, the SoWMy report highlighted the excellent value for money that midwives represent in primary health care.
Midwifery is “skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate care for childbearing women, newborn infants, and families across the continuum throughout pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, post partum, and the early weeks of life”. Midwifery includes family planning and the provision of reproductive health services. The services provided by midwives are best delivered not only in hospital settings but also in communities—midwifery is not a vertical service offered as a narrow segment of the health system. Midwifery services are a core part of universal health coverage.
-The Lancet Midwifery Series
Ten reasons why well trained and skilled midwives are important:
- Midwives care for women’s well being from pre-conception throughout pregnancy.
- Midwives assist women in having a safe and positive birth.
- Midwives promote normal birth.
- Midwives ensure the wellbeing of mothers and their newborns in the postnatal period.
- Midwives are trained to access appropriate medical assistance and perform emergency procedures where necessary.
- Midwives play a vital role in promoting sexual and reproductive health of women.
- Midwives advocate and empower women and mothers which in turn strengthens communities.
- Midwives focus on health promotion and disease prevention, viewing pregnancy as a normal life event.
- Midwives are a ‘best buy’ in primary health care.
- Midwives are the cornerstone of primary health care.
Skilled, highly trained midwives who value compassion and dignity are integral to communities around the world. Not only do they provide essential life-saving care to women and newborns, but they provide care and support to women far beyond what can be captured by research and statistics and play a pivotal role in empowering women and thus communities.
It is time to give midwives the respect they deserve.
Cover Photo Credit: Erling A, Flickr Creative Commons