International Day of the Midwife takes place annually on 5 May. It was first celebrated In 1991, and has since been observed in over 50 nations around the world. The idea of having a day to recognize and honor midwives came out of the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands. In 2014 it was celebrated in Iran and New Zealand among many other places.
A midwife is a professional in midwifery, specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, women’s sexual and reproductive health (including annual gynecological exams, family planning, menopausal care and others), and newborn care. They are also educated and trained to recognise the variations of normal progress of labor, and how to deal with deviations from normal to discern what, and may intervene in high risk situations, such as breech births, twin births and births where the baby is in a posterior position, using non-invasive techniques. When a pregnant woman requires care beyond the midwife’s scope of practice, they refer women to obstetricians or perinatologists who are medical specialists in complications related to pregnancy and birth, including surgical and instrumental deliveries. In many parts of the world, these professions work in tandem to provide care to childbearing women. In others, only the midwife is available to provide care, and in yet other countries many women elect to utilize obstetricians primarily over midwives.
Many developing countries are investing money and training for midwives as these services are needed all over the world. Some primary care services are currently lacking due to the shortage of money being funded for these resources. A study performed by Melissa Cheyney and colleagues followed approximately 17,000 planned home births with the assistance of midwives. 93.6% of these families had a normal physiological birth and only 5% were Cesarean sections. In 2013, the rate of Cesarean sections in hospitals in the United States was 32.7%, which is double the rate that World Health Organization recommends.
According to the definition of the International Confederation of Midwives, which has also been adopted by the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, A midwife is a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education programme that is recognised in the country where it is located and that is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice. and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery. The word derives from Old English mid, “with” and wif, “woman”, and thus originally meant “with-woman”, that is, the woman who is with the mother at childbirth. The word is used to refer to both male and female midwives.
The midwife is recognised as a responsible and accountable professional who works in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period, to conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and the infant. This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, the accessing of medical care or other appropriate assistance and the carrying out of emergency measures.
The midwife has an important task in health counselling and education, not only for the woman, but also within the family and the community. This work should involve antenatal education and preparation for parenthood and may extend to women’s health, sexual or reproductive health and child care. A midwife may practise in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics or health units.