Midwives are the linchpin in the health system


In a mini-blog series ICM is highlighting the role of midwives in family planning. The series continues with a guest blog from the partner organisation White Ribbon Alliance, written by Theresa Shaver, President, White Ribbon Alliance

Midwives are the linchpin in the health system and save lives. Yet two thirds of women in the poorest, least developed countries give birth without one. 

About 1000 women and almost 10,000 new-born babies die every day due to largely preventable complications during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. Many of these lives could be saved if every birth were attended by a midwife.
The midwife has an important role to play, not just in ensuring a safe birth but also after the birth to support the mother in looking after her new baby, and advising on birth spacing and family planning.

Family planning is key to a healthy society with healthy mothers. There’s no doubt that family planning saves lives, empowers women and delivers financial savings; it’s estimated that every $1 a government invests in family planning can save it $6 more on other essential public services including hospitals, houses and schools. A woman must have the right to choose when to have a baby and her midwife should be there to support and inform her.

But in order for midwives to offer that much needed support to women and to deliver high quality care, they themselves need the right support and training. Tales of the poor treatment and neglect of women in health facilities are all too common. They are often linked to low staff morale, inadequate staffing levels and lack of training. This means that even when care is available, the quality can be so poor that women receive little benefit. It also prevents women from seeking help when they really need it.
It also leads a negative reputation for the profession which then means it’s seen as a poor career choice. This is compounded by the fact that science is rarely taught to girls at school.

In Tanzania, White Ribbon Alliance is campaigning for science to be taught to girls at school, as well as working with schools to promote midwifery as a profession. We are also working with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance to push for better pay and conditions so that midwives don’t have to care single handed for dozens of women at a time – and for only a pittance. Making working conditions better for midwives will increase the quality of care they are able to give.
White Ribbon Alliance campaigns for respectful maternity care to be recognised as a human right worldwide. Midwives have the solutions, know what needs to change and need to join in campaigning for change.
Dignity and respect is a right for every woman when she is giving birth. This cannot be achieved without the support of midwives.