‘Greater investment in midwife-led interventions could save 4.3 million lives of women and newborns per year by 2035’
A new study states that greater investment in professional midwives, a profession categorised by the International Labour Organization as distinct from nursing, could improve the survival of mothers and babies.
Investing in midwife-led interventions could prevent about two-thirds of maternal deaths, newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2035, according to a new study by the UNFPA, WHO, and the International Confederation of Midwives.
The study, published in The Lancet Global Health on Thursday, suggests scaling up of the current level of care by professional midwives educated and regulated to international standards to provide universal access.
The WHO stated in a release that the study’s modelled estimates indicate that where midwife-delivered interventions such as family planning, diabetes management, assisted delivery and breastfeeding support take place, 4.3 million lives could be saved per year by 2035.
“These findings should leave no doubt in the minds of ministers of health, education and finance that midwife-led interventions have the potential to save the lives of women and their newborns at a vast scale,” says Elizabeth Iro, WHO Chief Nursing Officer.
“Now it is time to act. We must take urgent action to invest in midwives,” Iro added.
Greater investment in professional midwives, a profession categorised by the International Labour Organization as distinct from nursing, could improve the survival of mothers and babies, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, the release stated. It stated that to realise this potential, midwives need education and training to international standards, to be part of a supportive and skilled team, and work in an environment with adequate water, sanitation and medical supplies.
The study is based on modelled estimates of deaths averted in 88 low- and middle-income countries that account for more than 95 per cent of global maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths. These countries have severe health workforce shortages: they are home to 74 per cent of the world’s population but just 46 per cent of the world’s doctors, nurses and midwives.
The new study follows a 2014 publication in The Lancet Series in Midwifery and uses the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) which models variations in deaths based on the uptake, effectiveness and impact of about 30 midwife delivered interventions. Using an updated version of LiST, the current study provides three scenarios on the impact of increasing the provision of midwife healthcare around the world. The three scenarios include: achieving universal coverage by 2035; increasing coverage of midwife-delivered interventions by 25% every 5 years; or increasing coverage by 10% every 5 years.
Improving the health of mothers and newborns remains an important priority on the international agenda and there has been an increasing awareness around the role of midwives in addressing this need, including through WHO's campaign on the year of the nurse and wife, the WHO added in the release.