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The role of midwives in the maternal health of rural communities

midwives can play a vital role in the improvement of maternal and neonatal health worldwide

Midwives can play a vital role in the improvement of maternal and neonatal health worldwide, particularly as nearly half of all births in developing countries take place without the help of a skilled birth attendant.

Under the theme Midwives, Mothers and Families: Partners for Life, this year’s International Day of the Midwife highlights how midwives support women and their families to have safe and fulfilling births.

In the areas where Women and Children First works, midwives provide much needed care and support for women during pregnancy and labour. They play a key role in the prevention of diseases such as malaria, provide HIV-testing and offer Antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. They also inform women about pregnancy complications, carry out antenatal check-ups and offer family planning counselling. The women’s groups we’ve established in rural communities work actively with midwives and encourage group members to seek out their care, particularly during childbirth.

Felister Chikoti, a midwife at the Chagunda Health Centre in Central Malawi, tells us how she works tirelessly to encourage women to give birth at the health centre. This is done together with the women’s groups established in the area, where women learn the importance of delivering their babies with the help of a health care professional.

Chaguna Health Centre has actively fostered a partnership between the midwives and the women of nearby communities. Felister explains the system they’ve set up. “Volunteers go to the villages to identify pregnant mothers – particularly those who are less than three months pregnant – and bring them to the centre. The volunteers then visit the women every month to check up on their health, and they accompany them to the centre when they are due to deliver.”

Through this method, women are encouraged to come to the centre if they need to, and are more likely to keep up with their antenatal appointments. “This initiative has brought a great improvement in attendance at the antenatal clinic. Last June we saw 20 new women, in July it was 51, and in August, 76. The number of births at the health centre has also increased”.

The Nsiyaludzu Health Centre in Ntcheu, Central Malawi, has also have witnessed the effects of fostering partnerships with local communities. The local midwives talk to village chiefs about the importance of women reaching the health centre before going into labour, and the village chiefs now urge women to go to the health centre early. One of the senior midwives is happy with the results they’ve received so far: “We see many more women now than when I started here in 2004. Then we only had about 10 deliveries a month; now it is usually over 50”.

Thanks to the support of the Big Lottery Fund, Comic Relief and ViiV Healthcare Positive Action for Children Fund, Women and Children First has been working with its local partner, the MaiKhanda Trust, to improve maternal and neonatal health in the districts of NkhotaKota, Ntchisi and Salima in Malawi.