The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in “enormous challenges” for Barbadian midwives, President of the Barbados Nurses Association (BNA) Valarie Francis-Miller has said.
But she praised midwives for their continued “resilience” in provide life-saving services to pregnant women and ensuring healthy outcomes for mothers and babies amid the raging viral outbreak.
She made the comments at the BNA’s Midwives Group’s virtual seminar on midwifery’s challenges during COVID-19 as Barbados joined the rest of the world on Wednesday to observe International Day of the Midwife.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put the global spotlight on midwives and nurses, and the critical role we play. The pandemic has affected all areas of perinatal care, which has caused midwives to face enormous challenges,” Francis-Miller stated.
The BNA head pointed to some of the challenge identified by midwives as “not being able to initiate breastfeeding; isolating babies from their birth mothers; no home-visits for the women by the midwife due to the lockdown restrictions; no group teaching during clinic visits and an increase of un-booked women”.
Francis-Miller said: “Let’s not forget the institutional stigma, misconception among midwives and the possible fear of the unknown not only fueled the stigma that one would catch COVID-19. Both midwives and women had different perceptions of the fear for transmission of COVID-19.
“In these challenging times, midwives had to protect themselves and at the same time sustain the level of care for expected mothers. We as midwives recalibrated and adjustment came quickly.”
The BNA president commended those who “stood the course and continued to give support and care to mothers at their vulnerable time of need”.
She told her colleagues it was time to “take stock and move forward with renewed energy and joint commitment” as there was still a long way to go in order to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Francis-Miller said: “Therefore, I am asking the Government and the policymakers in the Ministry of Health and Wellness to recognise the midwifery profession and the important role of the midwife as we partner together to achieve the Sustainable Developmental Goals for 2030.”
The State of the World’s Midwifery 2021 report, issued by the World Health Organisation, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and partners declared that fully investing in midwives by 2035 would avert roughly two-thirds of maternal, newborn deaths and stillbirths, saving 4.3 million lives per year.
The world is facing an acute shortage of midwives and the current COVID-19 crisis had exacerbated persistent problems, with the health needs of women and newborns being overshadowed, midwifery services being disrupted and midwives being deployed to other health services, the report added.
Sally Pairman, ICM Chief Executive explained: “The global shortage of midwives currently stands at 900,000 midwives and at current rates, we will still be short about 750,000 midwives in 2030 when the UN Sustainable Development Goals are supposed to be achieved.
“This acute shortage of midwives is exacerbating a terrible global toll in the form of preventable deaths, and an analysis for this report which I did if there was full resourcing of midwife care by 2035, it could avert 67 per cent of maternal deaths, 64 per cent of newborn deaths and 65 per cent of stillbirths. It could save an estimated 4.3 million lives per year.” (FW)