Celebrating the International Day of the Midwife 2021

Written by Kathleen Baird, Professor and Discipline Lead for Midwifery, University of Technology Sydney

Today, Professor Kathleen Baird from the School of Nursing and Midwifery joins us on the blog as we celebrate the International Day of the Midwife. She talks about what this year’s theme means to her, the future of midwifery and offers some advice to current and future midwifery students.

Celebrating midwives everywhere

Celebrating the International Day of the Midwife every year on the 5th of May allows me and my fellow midwives to join with midwives from around the world to celebrate the incredible work that midwives do for women, their babies, and families.  

This year’s theme ‘Follow the data: Invest in Midwives’ means a lot to me as a midwife. As a midwife, midwifery educator and midwifery researcher, this theme brings to the forefront the important work that midwives do all around the world, every day, to prevent maternal and newborn death.

Image: Andy Roberts

This year, the International Day of the Midwife also coincides with the launch of the State of the World Midwifery Report. This report provides the evidence and the analysis of the midwifery workforce from across the globe.

Midwives are fundamental to ending preventable maternal and newborn deaths, and one of the main aims of midwifery is to provide safe quality maternity care. Using the data provides the evidence from research, which demonstrates that where midwives are the lead carer in maternity services, outcomes for women and babies are vastly improved at every level.  

The future of midwifery

The word midwife – means ‘with woman’ and midwives will continue to work in partnership with women and hopefully will never change.

My vision for midwifery in the future would be that every pregnant woman has access to continuity of midwifery care. Despite the overwhelming evidence that continuity of midwifery care reduces premature birth, low birth weight, reduces caesarean sections rates and improves the normal birth rate, only 10% of women in Australia can access this model of care.

Being a midwife is much more than just a job – it is a privilege; midwives are privileged to be part of a life-changing event for many women.

Kathleen Baird

My vision for the future is that every woman will have access to this model of care, where she will have a midwife that she knows, and that midwife will provide care on a one-to-one basis through the woman’s pregnancy, her birth and in the postnatal period.

Continuity of midwifery care can provide up 90% of essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health care. Therefore, in the future, we must continue to invest in midwives and this model of care, as we know it will lead to healthier families and more robust healthcare systems.

Midwives strive for the pursuit of health and wellbeing for communities in Australia and around the world. Paramount to the role of a midwife is to uphold the rights of women and their babies and to ensure safe and equitable care. However, to do this we must continue to examine the evidence and use that evidence to advocate for change.

To future and current midwifery students

My message to our midwifery students would be to continue to engage with the data and the evidence and never stop questioning practice. Research is an integral part of midwifery; it helps to prevent harmful practices and supports midwives to advocate for changes in midwifery and obstetric practice that is not evidence-based and not woman-centred.

At UTS, all our midwifery students engage with the evidence and research, we want them to embrace research and to have the skill of interpreting high-quality research that we believe is imperative to be able to provide evidence-based midwifery care.

The role of the midwife is now vast and continues to expand and this will provide students with many opportunities in the future. However, I would ask them never to forget that their role regardless of the setting will be to provide safe, respectful, empowering, and equitable care to women and their families, irrespective of the social context and the setting that they may choose to work in.

Being a midwife is much more than just a job – it is a privilege; midwives are privileged to be part of a life-changing event for many women. I would urge all student midwives and midwives to remember that whilst midwifery science and midwifery skills are vitally important to our role and are imperative for safe practice, the other important elements of midwifery are kindness and compassion. It is these two things, which will make the difference to each and individual woman that they care for.

So let us celebrate today, and thank all the midwives and student midwives from around the globe for the amazing work that they do.  

Learn more about Midwifery at UTS

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