International Day of the Midwife

May 5th is International Day of the Midwife and this year the focus is on “Leading the Way with Quality Care”.

What is quality care for women and their newborn infants?

All women, regardless of nationality, need a skillful provider who is kind and empathetic. A woman wants someone she can trust and someone who will provide individualized care. Midwives, using a vital mix of clinical and interpersonal skills, are uniquely qualified to provide such care. Midwifery has long been acknowledged for its vital and cost-effective contribution to high quality care for women and their newborns. Midwifery uses an evidence-based framework of care to provide quality care for women and their babies in a variety of income settings.

How does midwifery care differ from the medical model of care?

The Midwifery Model of Care emphasizes pregnancy and childbirth as normal life events instead of a pathology. Midwifery care monitors physical, psychological and social health of the woman and baby throughout the pregnancy, birth and post-partum. It also provides individualized education, counseling and prenatal care, continuous labor and delivery assistance and postpartum support, while minimizing technological interventions. Midwives are continually assessing the mother and baby and refer any woman who is outside the range of normal and needs additional care.

Maternal and newborn outcomes improve when there is a shift from the identification and treatment of disease to a midwifery model of care that is based on optimizing health and wellness. These improvements include:

  • Decreased mother and baby mortality and stillbirths

  • Decreased preterm births, low birthweight babies and hypothermia

  • Decreased perineal trauma, instrumental births, and blood loss

  • Decreased need for pain medication in labor

  • Increased spontaneous onset of labor and unassisted vaginal birth

  • Increased initiation and duration of breastfeeding

  • Increased referrals for complications, fewer newborn ICU admissions and shorter stays

  • Higher satisfaction in general as well as with pain relief in labor

  • Improved mother-baby interaction

There is increasing concern in the national and international community over the routine use of procedures and interventions that were designed for the treatment of complications. These unnecessary interventions, such as limiting mobility and food intake, episiotomies, inductions, and cesarean sections are affecting the mothers’ and babies’ physical and psychosocial wellbeing. Women benefit from receiving nurturing midwifery care rather than care that emphasizes testing and pathology. Midwifery led care is also more cost effective than medically led care. When working as part of a multidisciplinary team, midwives can and do provide effective care to women and their babies.

How can midwifery “lead the way” in women and newborn care?

The essential needs of childbearing women in all countries are still not being met. Regardless of a nation’s stage of transition in women and newborn care, midwifery can be successfully implemented to decrease maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity rates.

Midwifery is associated with more efficient use of resources and improved outcomes, so why is it not being utilized more? There are systematic barriers to high-quality midwifery care, some of which include:

  • A lack of understanding of what midwifery is and what midwives can do

  • The low status of women, especially in other countries

  • Interprofessional rivalries

  • Unregulated commercialization of childbirth

On this International Day of the Midwife, let us think about what midwifery can do for the women and newborn babies of the world. Midwifery care is known for its ability to decrease complications and unnecessary interventions, as well as effectively coordinate care with multidisciplinary team members when additional care is needed. Midwives can lead the way in improving care for childbearing women and their babies by providing individualized, compassionate and safe care, that is both personalized and cost-effective.

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