By Marian Van Huis, International Confederation of Midwives
On May 5th, people all over the world celebrate the difference
midwives make in saving the lives of mothers and babies. International Day of
the Midwife is about spreading awareness of the need for midwives and the impact
they have on maternal and child health. It is also about advocating for
government commitments to improve maternal and neonatal health by raising the
number of midwives, and increasing funding and legislative support for
midwifery. These efforts are not just a means to advance a professional
occupation, but are an opportunity to advance the status of girls and women
everywhere and have a positive impact on the lives of everyone in their
350,000 women and 3 million neonates die each year as a result of mostly
preventable circumstances. Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in
developing countries and sixty percent of these maternal deaths happen in only 6
countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
Every woman, everywhere, should have the right to a safe childbirth
experience. This includes the right to deliver where, with whom, and how she
wants. Whether a woman wants to give birth in a hospital, health facility, or
at home, she should have access to skilled care during, before and after
childbirth. But inequities of qualified care continue to exist throughout the
world, in both developed and developing countries. In many countries, midwifery
services are underfunded because of budget cuts and as a result of market-driven
policies. Other countries have not yet made the decision to provide any funding
for midwifery services.
And yet midwives are key to achieving the reduction of maternal and neonatal
mortality and morbidity called for MDGs 4 and 5. There is a shortage of 350,000
midwives globally. If this shortage was addressed, more than one million babies
each year could be saved. With more educated, competent midwives working in a
regulated system and the legislation to back it up, a huge difference can be
made in the lives of mothers, children and the families with whom they are
But governments need to do their utmost to support this system by supporting
midwifery education, legislation and regulation of the midwifery profession. In
places where governments have already made commitments to improving the status
and number of midwives, such as in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, we find
proof that by supporting midwives there is a reduction of maternal and child
mortality and morbidity and society as a whole is supported.
The International Confederation of Midwives has established global standards
on the education, competencies, and regulation of the midwifery profession as a
guide for governments and associations (available here).
These standards make it easier to educate midwives, ensuring that individuals
seeking care from midwives receive competent treatment and inspiring confidence
in the midwifery profession as a career choice.
On the International Day of the Midwife, we demonstrate our commitment to
supporting midwives with mothers, colleagues and partners worldwide. The White
Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and the International Confederation of
Midwives are natural partners in the fight to improve the number, status and
working conditions of midwives around the world for the benefit of mothers and
babies and their families.
Join us in asking for governments and individuals to celebrate midwives:
Download the ICM’s resource packet to learn what you can do to celebrate IDM or click here to learn more about WRA’s Action of the Month: Midwives Matter.