More midwives may halve the number of childbirth deaths

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A new study has shown that by increasing the number of available midwives, the number of women who die during childbirth could be reduced by 50%.

Articles in The Lancet journal claim that female health is under threat from ‘over-medicalisation’ of pregnancy, such as Caesareans. Experts say that chances of mental health problems, as well as other health issues, is reduced with natural birth.

It is estimated that about 139 million births occur globally, with around 300000 females dying during pregnancy. An estimate that an increase of 25% in midwifery could decrease the rate of maternal deaths by 50%, by 2030, has been issued by experts.

Claims have been made that regular use of what is termed as ‘unnecessary interventions’, including C-sections, restricted movement during labour and cutting to ease childbirth, may have enduring effects on both baby and mother.

One of the researchers based at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, Professor Caroline Homer, said that both the over and under-use of medical interventions in pregnancy are responsible for short and long-term illness for an estimated 20 million women globally.

Evidence has indicated that in high-income countries, such as Britain, units which are managed by midwives inside or next to hospitals were better at natural births and had lower levels of assisted birth, Caesarean births, vaginal cutting and had lower levels of hormone treatment than conventional labour wards. There was no variance as regards infant outcomes between the two options.

A Danish study indicated that independent midwife care also had the same benefits.
An author from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee, Scotland, Professor Mary Renfrew said that many of the needs of childbearing females, their families and their babies are still not being met across the world. This occurs despite recognition that the mothers and their babies need access to
health care which will offer them more than emergency interventions for medical problems.

She added that midwifery has been recognised as a cost-effective and important factor to high quality newborn and maternal care in many countries, however the health, economic and social benefits are not being realised globally.

The Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has welcomed the publication and stated that it has great significance for maternity services and midwives not only in the UK, but globally. She added that the authors have concluded that progress will not be made in the care of women and babies if focus is not removed from one-off interventions to save lives. A package of midwifery care should be introduced, including life-saving interventions, as well as heeding the needs of women and their childbirth preferences.

Image Credit: Salim Fadhley

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