Striving for a Better Tomorrow on International Day of the Midwife

By: Brittany Tatum, Women Deliver

May 5 of each year marks International Day of the Midwife (IDM) in which we celebrate the progress that has been made towards the vision to reduce all preventable maternal and newborn deaths. This year’s theme for IDM is: “Midwives: for a better tomorrow.” It reminds us of the critical role of midwives in creating a brighter future for mothers, babies, and families.

Every year nearly 300,000 women die from pregnancy, that’s 800 women a day. In lieu of that, nearly three million newborn babies die every year. How do we stop this and how can we prevent this for the future? The answer is investing in quality health care. Women need access to quality care for pregnancy and childbirth, including access to family planning. In order to this we must educate and recruit more women into the health workforce, especially as midwives.

Midwives are trained professionals with expertise and skills in supporting women maintain healthy pregnancies, and have optimal births and recoveries during the post partum period. Midwives play a critical role in the increase of maternal health. They can provide nearly 90 percent of the essential care to women and newborns which could potentially reduce maternal and newborn deaths by two thirds. Investing in midwives also allows doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to focus on other needs, which contributes to achieving the goal of ending preventable maternal mortality. Investing in midwifery can yield a 16 percent return on investment in terms of lives saved – can you think of a better investment?

Many countries have been successful in strengthening midwifery and have drastically improved access. Since 1990, maternal death has been dropped by almost half and child death by 41 percent.  Although accomplishments are being made, there is still a lack of access to services among many low-income countries. There are not enough sufficiently educated midwives to support the health of women and newborns, and this adds to the large number of preventable deaths annually.

At the 2013 Women Deliver Conference, Ibu Robin Lim, founder of Bumi Sehat said, “Save the midwives, save the world.” Truly there is no better way to put it. Investing in midwives will only lead to a brighter future for those who cannot afford more traditional health care. Pratically speaking, midwives take the time to give quality, kind, and skilled care, not for just a few, but for all babies. If you want to do something for babies and for women you first have support midwives, because they are the ones giving mothers the care they need.

If we do not stand up, and prioritize female health workers, we will continue to watch maternal mortality rates rise. Women will continue to die from circumstances that could have easily been prevented if given the proper care. So on Internation Day of the Midwife, and everyday, reflect on this quote from midwife Elizabeth Ndunge, who has worked as a midwife in Africa for over 20 years:  "Midwives are very important people -- their role is to save the lives of mothers and babies. When midwives are lacking, we lose mothers and babies who may become great leaders in this world."


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