Midwives play a crucial role in reducing global maternal morbidity

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Midwives have always been an integral part of a woman’s pregnancy and birth-giving process. Healthcare professionals trained in midwifery skills can make a tremendous difference to the progress and success of a pregnancy. With enough midwives in the world, the number of pregnancy related problems would be lowered drastically, particularly in developing third-world countries. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that there is a dire worldwide shortage of trained midwives and as a result of this, women and their newborns are dying from pregnancy and birth-related complications that could have easily been prevented if they had access to a health worker with the right skills, the right equipment and adequate support. 

Studies have shown that professionally trained midwives can make a dramatic difference to global maternal mortality statistics. In all countries that have achieved significant improvements in maternal mortality, midwives have played a key role.

 

How midwives make a difference

Midwives provide care in a number of areas to pregnant women and their new born babies. Some of the functions of midwives include:

  • Taking care of the woman right from the stage of pregnancy to the postnatal period
  • Providing care for the new born child
  • Treating complications that may arise during the pregnancy
  • Treating complications that may arise due to unsafe abortions or miscarriages
  • Teaching the woman how to breastfeed properly
  • Taking the woman and child to a medical facility when necessary
  • Referring the woman and the newborn for advanced care when complications arise
  • Educating women about child care, family planning and other health information

 

Gap Medics midwifery student listening to babies heartbeat. The midwife shortage in developing countries

Reducing maternal mortality and morbidity without midwives or other professionals with midwifery skills is an almost impossible task. Despite knowing this, the number of skilled midwives has started to decline in some countries, particularly third-world countries in Asia and Africa. This is primarily because of low wages, dissatisfaction with existing working conditions and lack of support from the medical community as well as the government.

In theory, the solution to this problem seems simple – train more midwives. The reality however, is more complicated and beset by inherent problems such as gender bias. In predominantly male societies, female midwives are considered a mere commodity and the death of yet another mother and her newborn, especially if the newborn is a female, is not given any thought at all.  

Changing prevailing perceptions & global statistics

In an effort to change prevailing perceptions and reduce global maternity mortality, several global organisations such as the WHO, UNFPA and others are not just training local midwives but are also working towards educating local communities about the significant role that midwives play in this regard. They have in fact come a long way and today, in several third-world countries midwives who have the basic skills are being imparted advanced training in basic emergency functions such as manual removal of placenta, vacuum extraction and vacuum aspiration.

In some countries such Mozambique, senior nurses are even trained to perform C-sections. The training was part of an attempt to give pregnant women easier access to emergency care, particularly in remote areas where distance itself is often the largest barrier to getting emergency obstetric care. 

To make a significant difference to the dismal statistics on maternal morbidity, the need of the hour is more trained midwives who are willing to go into these areas and train local healthcare providers in essential life-saving midwifery skills. 

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