We need more midwives. On a global scale, a lack of midwives is a healthcare emergency. According to WHO, UNICEF and other groups, maternal mortality is the “highest health inequity in the world.” Ninety-nine percent of women who die in childbirth do so in the developing world; 50% of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO estimates that we need 350,000 more midwives worldwide to meet this crisis. According to the International Confederation of Midwives there are currently about 250,000 licensed midwives, 13,000 in sub-Saharan Africa.
We also need more midwives in the US where approximately 10,000 midwives attend just 10% of births, or 430,000 a year. If midwives attended 75% of births in the US, as they do in New Zealand—a country with better infant mortality than the US—we would need 75,000 more midwives. Scientific evidence suggests that women with normal pregnancies should be cared for by midwives
The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) has graduated 300 midwives, but many more are needed, especially in the African American community as evidence suggests that women of color birth best with midwives of color. In fact, one of the criteria for a mother friendly birth is that a birthing mother receive culturally competent care.
We often see midwives as a good choice, but seldom do we realize how life saving their model of care really is. If we are to decrease our rates of medical interventions during birth in the US and improve our poor rates of infant and maternal mortality, we will need more midwives. Let us encourage young women in our communities to see midwifery as a viable and powerful career choice.
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