A modest increase in the number of skilled midwives in the world’s poorest nations could save the lives of a substantial number of women and their babies, according to new analyses by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Maternal mortality is a leading cause of death for women in many developing countries and public health efforts to avert it have only made headway in a few countries. Elsewhere, progress has either never started or has stalled in recent years. Poor nations also have troubling rates of infant and fetal deaths. Midwives can play a crucial role in preventing the deaths of millions of women and children around the world who die during and around the time of pregnancy, the researchers reported June 23 in The Lancet.
“Even deploying a relatively small number of midwives around each country could have a profound impact on saving maternal, fetal, and newborn lives,” says study leader Dr. Linda Bartlett, a faculty member in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Our study shows that maternal mortality can be prevented, even in the most difficult of places.”
In their analysis, researchers found that a 10 percent increase in midwife coverage every five years through 2025 could avert more than a quarter of maternal, fetal, and infant deaths in the world’s 26 neediest countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia.