International Day of The Midwife - 5th May 2009

Midwives are integral in achieving global maternal and newborn health and in reaching Millennium Development Goals Four and Five, to reduce child and maternal mortality.  They constitute a large percentage of the world’s skilled birth attendants and care for millions of women and newborns each year. An important element of the primary health care system, midwives are key players in improving maternal health across the globe. 

The International Day of the Midwife was formally initiated in 1992 with the aim of celebrating and raising awareness of the practice of midwifery and its importance in achieving global health objectives. 

The role of midwives is unique in that they assist and accompany women throughout their pregnancies, births and post partum period.  This continuity of care allows them to assist women in having positive birth experiences with healthy outcomes for both mother and newborn.  Midwives commonly provide education about different options regarding the pregnancy and birth experience, antenatal and post natal care, skilled care at the time of birth, management and referral for any health complications, emotional support, nutritional education, breastfeeding support and assistance with family planning and spacing.  This holistic model can help women and newborns achieve optimal health outcomes as well as positive feelings about the birth experience. 

At this time, there are 13 countries which account for 67% of maternal deaths, all of which are low resource countries, mostly in Sub Saharan Africa.  Skilled attendance at the time of birth is known to lessen the chances of a maternal or newborn death significantly.  Midwives are often the backbone of reproductive health services in low resource settings and more are needed to counter skilled health worker shortages.  Retaining and training midwives in the skills required to manage obstetric emergencies such as the active management of  the third stage of labour are important initiatives with direct impacts on the lives of women as well as on global occurrences of preventable deaths.   

FIGO would like to highlight six good reasons for obstetricians and gynaecologists, as individuals and as societies, to collaborate closely with midwives and help strengthen midwifery associations.  

  • Credibility. In work at the national level, a partnership between two major collaborators in maternal and newborn health increases credibility. It confirms commitment to the overall cause, and reduces suspicion of acting in self interest.
  • Sustainability. Achieving results in maternal-newborn and other areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights requires systematic work over long periods of time. Working together increases the chances of keeping up energy and inspiration over time.
  • Supplementing each other in competence. Obstetrician-gynaecologists and midwives have different strengths, and different professional roles and competencies. Working together in projects and defined activities can make these different strengths act in synergy for stronger overall effect.
  • Networking. Midwives and obstetrician-gynaecologists often have different channels through which they network, e.g. in government, within the health system and with other national partners. Collaboration thus means access to a larger, joint network.  
  • Different perspectives. Doctors and midwives not only have different training but also oftentimes different backgrounds. They may also see different parts of society and the national challenges in different population groups. The collective viewpoints will enrich joint action.
  • Organisational strengths. Due to a number of issues, not least traditional hierarchical and financial, obstetric-gynaecologic societies are sometimes organisationally stronger than the respective national midwifery society. Replacing aspects of professional rivalry with mutual interest to strengthen each other should be an overarching goal in order to improve the health of women and newborn worldwide. 

The International Confederation of Midwives has issued a Press Release to coincide with the International Day of The Midwife which may be obtained by clicking here.