The Global Impact of Midwifery


According to the State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 Report there is a global shortage of midwives, which is tragic because high quality midwifery care could save the lives of millions of women and babies who die during and after pregnancy. Shane Carnahan posted a reflection here recently regarding the World’s Midwifery 2014 Report and how to improve birthing options for women on a global scale (25 July 2014).

The impact of midwifery is paramount. World Health Organization statistics show that births attended by midwives have lower infection rates, lower Cesarean rates, fewer complications and healthier birth outcomes than births attended by physicians in the hospital. Further evidence of the impact of midwifery is that the countries with the healthiest birth outcomes in the world have midwives as their main maternity care providers.

According to the State of Midwifery Report, there is a serious shortage of midwives in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These countries suffer 99% of the world’s maternal deaths and more than 90% of stillbirths and newborn deaths. Each year 300,000 women are estimated to die during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum worldwide. Every day 800 women are estimated to die from pregnancy or complications related to childbirth around the world. The blog written by Shane discusses the key challenges to providing midwifery care in these areas, such as standardizing midwifery education and equipping facilities with supplies for emergency procedures.

Over three quarters of stillbirths and maternal and infant deaths could be prevented in the countries with the highest infant and maternal death rates if quality midwifery care were available to all women. Millions of lives could be saved! The return on investment from the education and organization of community-based midwives is estimated to be similar to vaccinations in terms of the cost per life saved. More importantly than the return on investment is that all women are entitled to respectful, compassionate care before, during and after pregnancy and birth. And all babies deserve to be born in a loving, nurturing environment.

I hope this blog will stimulate your interest in reading the entire report (State of the World’s Midwifery, 2014) and an excellent article in the journal Lancet (Midwifery, 2014). Please join us in appreciating love and compassion in action, expressed daily by the midwives in your town, state, nation, and our world.

Randi Powell

Global Force for Healing Intern

OHSU Senior Nursing Student

Nursing Students Without Borders

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