Midwives are health professionals who work in partnership with women to provide expert maternity care, support and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period.
This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, emergency interventions, and the accessing of additional obstetrical expertise where appropriate. Midwives also provide care that extends to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health and child care. Midwives may practice in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics or health units.
Throughout the world, millions of women and families depend on midwives to support them safely through pregnancy and childbirth. Often practicing in remote areas where there are no other maternity care providers, and where the closest referral facility could be several kilometres away, midwives have the skills to save lives.
Improving access to midwifery care has led to an average reduction of 3% in the maternal mortality ratio of 72 high-burden countries since 1990. In addition, research shows that midwifery care leads to numerous improved outcomes, such as fewer preterm births, reduced interventions in labour, increased birth-spacing, and contraceptive use, increased breastfeeding, and shorter hospital stays.
In countries with the lowest Human Development Index, 61% of maternal, fetal and neonatal deaths could be prevented if there was universal midwifery coverage.
IDM (International Day of the Midwife) is our day, the day when midwives – the backbone of maternity services – celebrate with the mothers and newborns the difference that we make to saving their lives in our hands.
– Frances Day-Stirk, President of the International Confederation of Midwives
What does investing in midwives mean on the ground?
A key component of enabling midwives to do this lifesaving work is ensuring that they are educated in accordance with international standards, and have access to continuing education, especially in emergency skills.
Since 2011, the Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM) and the Tanzania Registered Midwives Association (TAMA) have been collaborating on a multi-faceted partnership. With funding from the Sanofi-Espoir Foundation, CAM and TAMA have co-developed an emergency skills training program to support professional development for rural Tanzanian midwives. The Midwives Emergency Skills Training (MEST) is a four day workshop that provides midwives with both theoretical and practical skills to be able to deal with a range of emergency situations, including breech birth, multiple birth, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, and post-partum haemorrhage. By early 2016, teams of Canadian and Tanzanian instructors will have delivered MEST to more than 300 rural-based midwives across the country. An additional 12 Tanzanian midwives will have been trained as local MEST instructors.
Positive outcomes from the project have been immediate. Post-training success stories and experiences from MEST participants stream in, demonstrating how critical this type of training is, particularly at the rural dispensary (primary health facility) level, for saving the lives of mothers and babies.
Not only has the collaboration between CAM and TAMA served to support midwives in Tanzania in their life-saving work, it has also given CAM experience with global partnership work, which has allowed the organization to begin association-strengthening work with midwifery associations in other countries, such as Haiti and Mali.
The collaborative nature of the CAM/TAMA relationship has allowed both organizations to grow and develop to better support the needs of their own midwife members as well as midwives around the world.