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How many midwives does it take to save two (or more) lives?

Posted by Nicola Sansom Activism and Community Campiagner

5th May 2012

Just one.

One trained medical practitioner who is there to offer help, guidance and support through the profound and challenging experience of bringing new life into the world.

No mother should have to risk her life or that of her unborn baby by going through childbirth without expert care. Yet every year 48 million women give birth without the support of someone with recognised midwifery skills.

The consequences of this are tragic. Over 350,000 women die each year as a result of preventable maternal causes. Millions more suffer infection and disability. Families are devastated.

99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries and a large portion of them are preventable. You're twice as likely to have your birth attended by a skilled healthcare worker if you life in a town or city than the countryside.

What we are talking about is inequality. Where you live should not determine how likely you are to receive medical care. Do you believe any of these should be a factor in the care a mum gets: which country you were born in, whether you live in a town or a village or the amount of money your family has?

Harriett Roberts, mum to Joe, survived her difficult birth due to the skilled care of her local hospital team in Manchester. She points out "You've work hard growing this little person inside you and you should have the opportunity to watch them grow."

5 May is the International Day of the Midwife

Most of us begin our lives in the hands of a midwife.

This is a chance to highlight the importance of the midwifery profession. A chance to call for more midwives to be trained and for those we have to be better supported.

The White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania have produced this short film, "What I Want is Simple" to improve the public perception of midwives and to ask others to show their support for difficult job they do.

A lot of progress has already been made. Sierra Leone used to be the worst place in the world to give birth. On 28 April 2010, the government introduced free healthcare for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of five, helped by UK aid money. See some of the lives that policy has impacted.

What can you do?

Dr. Koby Appiah-Sakyi (Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Ghana working in Manchester) sadly lost his own mother in childbirth. He explains "If your mother dies, a light goes out that never comes back on."   He has specialised and spent his working life to try to reduce maternal deaths.

But you don't have to be a trained healthcare worker to highlight this important issue. People across the UK and across the world are taking action to show how important this issue is to them. They are knitting giant baby blankets, walking prams of messages to see MPs, doing pregnant break dancing and more to raise awareness in their local community.

There are lots of ways that you can get involved in to show your support. Why not check out this advocacy pack as a starting point? You can also learn more about birth rights in Ghana or aid in general, and why it really matters with this e-learning resource.

Remember the international day of the midwife is only once a year, but we need more trained health workers everyday to save lives. So far Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have managed to half their Maternal Mortality Rate within 10 years by increasing the number of midwives

Imagine that the whole British army died of a disease within six months. That's roughly equivalent to the rate of 500,000 women globally still dying needlessly each year in pregnancy and childbirth.

Let's keep working together to see that governments are playing fair. Every mum deserves the same access to healthcare workers and facilities to help them to bring an amazing new life into the world.

Blog post written by Nicola Sansom

Activism and Community Campiagner

More by Nicola Sansom