New report raises alarm on global shortage of 900,000 midwives

Global midwifery

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has welcomed the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) 2021 report, which shows the progress made to maternity services as well as the work needed to reach suggested goals and prevent 4.3 million deaths per year by 2030. The report provides new data for the effectiveness of midwives in reaching international development goals, potentially averting two out of three of maternal and newborn death and still births and impacting over 50 other health outcomes.

The report shows that the world is currently facing a shortage of 900,000 midwives, which represents a third of the required international midwifery workforce. At current rates, there will still be a shortage of 750,000 midwives in 2030, significantly compromising achievement of the health targets in the sustainable development goals. Despite gains towards global development, if sufficient investment in midwives is not immediately forthcoming, the report suggests the gap between rich and poor countries will widen by 2030.

The report calls for urgent investment in midwives globally, specifically in four areas:

  1. Health workforce planning, management and midwives’ working environments
  2. High quality education and training
  3. Midwife-lead improvements to maternity care
  4. Midwifery leadership and governance

Commenting of the findings Executive Director for Professional Leadership Birte Harlev-Lam said: “The timely launch of this report on International Day of the Midwife is a very welcomed addition to our ongoing calls for better recruitment and retention in maternity services. Not only do these findings project the great progress that has been made it also shows the inseparable correlation between midwives and women’s health care on a global scale. These figures show promise in progress but there is still a mountain to climb to tackle disparities.

“As one of the leading voices in midwifery care, the RCM is committed to its international engagement and we are pleased the UK has been included in this report for the first time. In our ongoing commitment to working collaboratively with international organisations, we aim to influence and improve developments to midwifery education and training, quality improvements in midwifery service delivery and strengthening midwifery leadership.”

The SoWMy 2021 presents findings on the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health workforce from 194 countries. The report was produced by UNFPA, the International Confederation of Midwives, the World Health Organization and Novametrics and shows the progress and trends since the inaugural 2011 edition and identifies the barriers and challenges to future advancement.