By Prof Caroline Homer
On Thursday the 5th of May, midwives celebrate International Midwives Day reminding everyone of the important and unique role that midwives play. Australian midwives join their colleagues around the world today to raise awareness and funds to tackle global inequities in maternal and newborn health.
The world needs midwives more than ever. We are still around 2000 midwives short in Australia and 350,000 short worldwide. Access to essential midwifery services reduces maternal and infant mortality and reduces the cycle of poverty in developing countries.
“We have five years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and improve maternal and newborn health globally. Over 340,000 women die each year, with millions more suffering infection and disability, as a result of preventable maternal causes. Right here in Australia maternal and peri-natal mortality rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continue to be far worse than the non-Indigenous people.
Australia also has one of the highest caesarean section rates in the developed world, and there is still limited access to continuity of midwifery care models that we know improve outcomes for mothers and babies. In 2010 women and midwives welcomed in a new era in maternity reform in Australia that brings promise. From November 2010, for the first time in Australian history, women have been able to choose their own midwife for pregnancy, birth in hospital and for the postnatal period; and to access Medicare rebates for care from the midwife of their choice. This follows historic legislative reform by federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon to give midwives access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the PBS. To date around 30 midwives have become Eligible Midwives in Australia.
UTS encourages all members of the community to celebrate International Midwives Day!