For International Day of the Midwife (May 5th), we’re celebrate the midwives who have been bringing new life into the world for generations.
‘Midwifery is the very stuff of life,’ announces Nurse Jenny Lee in the opening scenes of BBC’s show Call the Midwife.
‘Every child is conceived in love, or lust and born in pain followed by joy, or by tragedy and anguish. Every birth is attended by a midwife. She is in the thick of it. She sees it all.’
Call the Midwife reaches audiences of an average 10.5million, and we can’t tear ourselves away from Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary One Born Every Minute. So it seems, as a nation we all want to be in the thick of it too.
International Day of the Midwife puts the spotlight on this centuries-old occupation and the difference midwives make to the lives of expectant mothers across the world.
Meaning ‘with woman’, midwives are responsible for supporting women through pregnancy, birth and beyond. They calmly and patiently lead woman after woman through all manner of straightforward and complicated births, never tiring of the unique privilege of being there for the very beginning of life.
As mums-to-be and new mums we’re grateful for their knowledge, compassion and care.
It’s no surprise, then, that babies are named after their midwives, new godparents are made and lifelong friendships forged.
The number of midwives, not just in the profession, but in training, too, is sadly declining in the UK. This is reportedly impacting on the quality of service pregnant women have been receiving.
The UK’s neonatal mortality rate in 2014 (3.6 per 1,000 births in England and Wales) is high compared to most of our high-income counterparts, which put the focus on the future of our maternity services.
The Government has outlined its ambition to halve the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth
The Government has outlined its ambition to halve the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2030.
It also pledged to become a world-leading place to give birth, where expectant mothers are given more choice on where and how they give birth.
Training more midwives is at the forefront of this promise (reportedly 6,000 were in training in 2014).
More than £2million has also been invested in safer maternity care, including ultrasound machines and monitoring equipment and data access improved so best practice is applied across the NHS.
These, among other measures, are hoped to provide both women and babies with the best possible outcomes.
The UK is already a very safe place to give birth and the signs are good that it’s becoming even safer. So whether you’re pregnant or have already given birth, take a moment to celebrate your midwife - they’ll be someone you’ll never forget.