Back 25 September 2015

International midwifery partnership to reduce smoke exposure in pregnancy

WHO Midwifery and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) are working together to:

  1. translate recently published new WHO recommendations on prevention and management of tobacco use, and second-hand smoke exposure in pregnancy, into a competency-based tool
  2. share the tool with midwives.

The partnership furthers WHO’s global commitment to reducing tobacco use, and ICM’s mission to strengthen Midwives Associations, and to advance the profession of midwifery globally, to enhance the reproductive health of women, and the health of their newborn and their families.

At an historic meeting at the July Asia-Pacific ICM Congress in Yokohama this year, delegates had the opportunity to contribute to testing and shaping the tool, to ensure effective implementation.

Frances E. McConville, Technical Officer Midwifery, WHO, set the scene by overviewing “Tobacco Free During Pregnancy and Beyond: A Global Action Strategy”.  It included WHO’s commitment to reducing non-communicable diseases and tobacco free pregnancies, the harms of smoke-exposure in pregnancy, the benefits of quitting, the recommendations in the new WHO document and three draft tools. Of particular note were that “pregnancy is a unique teachable moment”, and the three step call to midwifery action with every smoke-exposed pregnancy: “Ask – Assist – Connect”.


Grace Wong presented “New Zealand, a country case study of midwifery practice and smoking cessation”.  Nester T. Moyo, Senior Midwifery Advisor ICM, discussed the ICM process of developing and accepting competencies, the development of two tobacco competencies, how they fit into ICM, and where and how they will be available to the wider community.

Kathleen Kennedy led the group work with 20 delegates from 10 countries. They provided feedback on:

- the three WHO draft tools to facilitate midwives implementing the WHO recommendations on prevention and management of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke inpregnancy.

- two ICM competency documents to support the WHO recommendations and WHO tools

Feedback emphasised developing communication skills to reduce smoke exposure from partners’ and elders’ smoking, a major issue in the Asia-Pacific region. An interesting recommendation was furthering the alignment of the tools with the story of “Mrs X”. Mrs X’s story begins a widely used WHO community midwifery education module. Her story links safe childbirth practice, women’s needs and the place and value of women in society.

By: Dr. Grace Wong, Nestor T. Moyo, Fran E. McConville and Kathleen Kennedy.


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