Talking about midwives in the development context may seem out of place at first, as many people might not be aware of the work they do. However, looking deeper it becomes clear that midwives play a vital role in development, especially with regard to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). So what exactly is a midwife and what do they do?
The word midwife literally means ‘with woman’. Based on the origins of this ancient profession the description of the midwife’s practice, as defined by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), begins as follows:
“The midwife is recognised as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period, to conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and the infant.”
A midwife supports and cares for women throughout the childbearing cycle. While this of course includes pregnancy, labour and birth, it also means that the midwife cares for the woman and her newborn during the days and weeks following the birth. In many settings, the midwife goes on to address the ongoing reproductive and contraceptive needs of the woman. The ICM definition notes that the midwife is a person who has successfully completed an education programme that is recognized in the country in which they are located and that is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.
Having broadly defined the work of midwives, let’s look more concretely at why and how midwives contribute to development. Read more here.