When we think of a midwife, we probably imagine a person delivering babies. Of course, the primary role of a midwife is to assist women in childbirth. But that is not all midwives do.
What does a midwife do?
Midwives have perhaps the broadest skill set of any healthcare professional. As defined by The Lancet, midwives provide “skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate care for childbearing women, newborn infants and families… throughout pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and the early weeks of life.”
- “optimizing normal biological psychological, social, and cultural processes of reproduction and early life;
- timely prevention and management of complications;
- consultation with and referral to other services;
- respect for women’s individual circumstances and views,
- and working in partnership with to strengthen women’s own capabilities to care for themselves and their families.”
This means midwives care for the physical, mental and social health of prenatal and postnatal women, their babies and families.
Why do we need a year of the midwife?
According to the World Health Organisation, the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
When we understand the role midwives play in the lives of each and every one of us (if we are lucky enough to live in a part of the world with midwife provision), we know that midwife care is essential. These specialist nurses are the pillar of strength every family needs during the transitional time of birth. They have the medical and social skills that keep us physically safe and mentally prepared to embark on a new chapter of life.
Why is Biovault Family celebrating the Year of the Nurse and Midwife?
Not having enough midwives to get every woman through birth into the next decade is a worldwide medical and social emergency.
We were all fortunate enough to be watched over by a midwife in our first days and weeks; and those of us who are mums and dads know that we couldn’t have got through those early days without their calm support, reassurance and guidance.
We work with expectant parents every day who store cord blood and tissue stem cells to protect their children from disease and injury. We appreciate how privileged we are to live in a country where it is possible to access next-generation healthcare and to survive leukaemia, sickle cell disease, neuroblastoma and other life-threatening conditions. We want to make stem cell therapies accessible to every family, but first, we need to address the basics.
12 midwife facts: how midwifery benefits society
Here are some of the findings of the WHO in 2014
- 83% of all maternal deaths, stillbirths and newborn deaths could be averted with the full package of midwifery care (including family planning);1
- 62% of effective practices within the scope of midwifery show the importance of optimising the normal processes of childbirth and early life, and empowering women to care for themselves and their families;2
- 56 maternal and neonatal outcomes were found to be improved through midwifery practice and philosophy of care;2
- 87% of service need can be delivered by midwives when educated to international standards;3
- 82% reduction in maternal mortality possible with universal midwifery coverage;1
- Midwifery is associated with more efficient use of resources and improved outcomes when provided by midwives who are educated, trained, licenced and regulated in international standards2. Midwifery is a ‘best buy’ investment;3
- Midwifery is associated with reduced maternal and neonatal morbidity, reduced interventions in labour, improved psycho-social outcomes and increased birth spacing and contraceptive use;4
- Community-based midwives have been found to rank positively for economy, efficiency and effectiveness;4
- Midwifery should be considered a core part of universal health coverage. Quality midwifery care is central to achieving national and global priorities and securing the rights of women and newborn infants;4
- Quality relates to the right for women and newborns to the highest standard of health and is synonymous with women-centred care. Providing quality care is most efficient through midwifery care for all childbearing women;5
- There were no adverse outcomes associated with midwife-led care but significant benefits, thus it is recommended that all women should be offered midwife-led continuity models of care;5
- Midwives have the potential to provide excellent quality of care but socio-cultural, economic and professional barriers must be overcome to allow them to practice to their full potential.7
Who is behind Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020?
The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020 is organised by WHO and partners including the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), International Council of Nurses (ICN), Nursing Now and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020 is a year-long effort to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face, and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce.
Why is the First Year of the Nurse and the Midwife happening in 2020?
“In 2020, the spotlight is on us: nurses and midwives are being celebrated not just in England but across the globe. This is the chance to highlight our vast and varied skills and the work we do, and to ensure our professional voice is heard and represented at the heart of all health and care decisions and policy.”Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England
2020 is Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial year, designated by the World Health Organisation as the first-ever global Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Nurses and midwives make up the largest numbers of the NHS workforce. They are highly skilled, multi-faceted professionals from a host of backgrounds that represent our diverse communities. 2020 is our time to reflect on these skills, the commitment and expert clinical care they bring, and the impact they make on the lives of so many. This year is also an opportunity to say thank you to the professions; to showcase their diverse talents and expertise, and to promote nursing and midwifery as careers with a great deal to offer.
1 Homer, CS, Friberg, IK, Dias, MA et al. “The projected effect of scaling up midwifery”. Lancet. 2014;384: 1146–1157
2 Renfrew, MJ, McFadden, A, Bastos, MH et al. “Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence-informed framework for maternal and newborn care”. Lancet. 2014; 384: 1129–1145
3 UNFPA ICM, WHO: “The state of the world’s midwifery 2014: A universal pathway. A women’s right to health”. 2014, New York: United Nations Population Fund
4 Sandall J, Soltani H, Gates S, Shennan A, Devane D. “Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 4
5 Ten Hoope-Bender P, de Bernis L, Campbell J et al (2014). “Improvement of maternal and newborn health through midwifery”. Lancet. 2014;384: 1226-35
6 Tracy SK, Hartz DL, Tracy MB, Allen J, Forti M, Hall B, White J, Lainchbury A, Stapleton H, Beckmann M, Bisits A, Homer C, Foureur M, Welsh A, Kildea S: “Caseload midwifery care versus standard maternity care for women of any risk: M@NGO, a randomized controlled trial”. Lancet 2013,382:1723–1732.
7 Filby A, McConville F, Portela A (2016) “What Prevents Quality Midwifery Care? A Systematic Mapping of Barriers in Low and Middle Income Countries from the Provider Perspective”. PLoS ONE.11(5)