April 8, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
2,87,000 women die every year around the world, due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications. Most of these deaths occur in low-income countries and in poor and rural areas. These are shocking statistics, especially considering that most of these maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented. What are lacking in these demographics are competent midwives trained to assist women before, during and after childbirth and emergency obstetric care facilities for severe pregnancy and birth-related complications. Studies show that midwifery services are crucial for safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth. The sad fact is that more than a third of all births in low-income countries take place in the absence of a midwife or other skilled health staff.
Midwives care for women right through pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period. It includes educating women about the various measures that can help prevent health problems in pregnancy, detecting abnormal conditions, procuring specialised medical assistance when necessary, and executing emergency measures in the absence of any other medical help.
Midwives also provide essential care after birth. After childbirth, they check the health of the newborn and also counsel the mother on newborn care, birth spacing and family planning. These trained professionals also support and educate new mothers, teaching them about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Midwives need more than just training to be successful. Working in teams with the necessary supplies is essential for midwives to fulfil their responsibilities. In order for midwives to provide much-needed care they also need readily available drugs and supplies, sufficient infrastructure, sanitation, water and a working referral system to help with complications that may arise during childbirth.
While all of this may seem straightforward in wealthier, first-world countries, it is much more complex in low-income, rural areas and third-world countries. Midwives working in these areas grapple with a whole range of challenges, from traditional mindsets, lack of sanitation and clean water to lack of basic healthcare facilities, lack of essential medication and lack of trained healthcare professionals.
This situation is compounded by the fact that many trained midwives from these demographics leave their home countries to work abroad. Developing countries often find it difficult to retain trained personnel due to difficult working conditions, poor wages, lack of proper support and limited career paths. Many trained midwives prefer to work abroad for higher salaries and better working conditions. This creates a shortage of skilled staff in countries where it is needed most.
A part of their Millennium Development Goal 5 initiative, WHO advises countries on how to support midwives and is working with countries around the world to better recognise midwifery as a much-needed profession and provide midwives with much-needed support. A much larger number of midwives need to be trained to achieve the MDG 5 target to increase the number of births attended by skilled health personnel to 95% by 2015.