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International Day of the Midwife (IDM):Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives

by Public Health Update


The International Day of the Midwife (IDM) is observed globally on 5th May 202 to advocate for investment in quality midwifery care around the world, improving sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in the process. 

Theme 2021

The theme of the International Day of the Midwife in 2021 is Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives.

This year on 5th May, International Day of the Midwife (IDM) coincides with the launch of the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) Report 2021. Co-led by ICM, UNFPA, and WHO SoWMy 2021 brings the latest evidence on the critical importance of investing in quality midwifery care to the forefront of global health discussions.

The State of the World’s Midwifery 2021

The IDM 2021 calls on midwives, women, partners and midwifery advocates globally to hold governments, decision-makers, and policymakers accountable for following the SoWMy data and investing in midwives. As the data shows, investment in midwives is a cost-effective approach to improving health outcomes for mothers and babies and reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirth. Midwife-led models of care result in excellent maternal and neonatal outcomes and quality care.

Key messages


  • The evidence is in: investing in midwives saves lives, improves health and strengthens health systems.
  • Increased investment in midwives could save up to 4.3 million lives every year by averting 67% of maternal deaths, 64% of neonatal deaths, and 65% of stillbirths.
  • We are experiencing a global shortage of 900,000 midwives. Of the midwives we do have, substantial barriers are preventing them from achieving their full potential.
  • To close the gap by 2030, 1.3 million new SRMNAH workers (mostly midwives and mostly in Africa) are needed in the next 10 years. Currently we are experiencing a global shortage of 900,000 midwives.
  • There is a global needs-based shortage of 900,000 midwives. There is a shortage of all types of SRMNAH workers, but the largest shortage is of midwives.
  • The midwife shortage cannot be filled by other occupations because there are global shortages of these other occupations too. More midwives would not only give more women, adolescents and newborns access to their unique skills, but would also free up doctors and nurses to focus on other health needs.
  • The rate of progress in building the SRMNAH workforce is not improving at the rate required to meet SDG 3, and the gap between high- and low-income countries is projected to widen.

Lives saved

  • Increasing coverage of midwife-delivered interventions (health interventions that can be delivered in their entirety by midwives) by 25% every 5 years could avert 41% of maternal deaths, 39% of neonatal deaths, and 26% of stillbirths by 2035. That’s 2.2 million deaths averted per year.
  • A modest increase in coverage of midwife-delivered interventions – 10% every 5 years – could avert 22% of maternal deaths, 23% of neonatal deaths, and 14% of stillbirths, equating to 1·3 million deaths averted per year.
  • Universal (95%) coverage of midwife-delivered interventions would avert 67% of maternal deaths, 64% of neonatal deaths, and 65% of stillbirths, allowing 4·3 million lives to be saved annually by 2035.
  • The impact of midwives — 4.3 million lives saved. Every single year.

Improved health

  • It’s not just a matter of life or death. Midwives can improve health, too.
  • Midwives could provide up to 90% of essential sexual, reproductive, maternal newborn, and adolescent health care across the lifespan. Despite this, they currently account for less than 10% of the global SRMNAH care workforce.
  • Investing in midwives leads to healthier families, more productive communities, and more robust health systems.


  • Midwives are critical – even and especially during a global pandemic.
  • COVID-19 has dramatically impacted all aspects of health systems, including sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health care. Service disruption risks eroding hard-fought gains in health outcomes and increasing unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, unsafe abortions and increased health risks for mothers, newborns and adolescents.
  • COVID-19 has worsened the existing global shortage of midwives.
  • Midwives can provide care for women, children and adolescents outside of health facilities and near where they live, which is particularly important now amid the pandemic since this can prevent medical services from being overrun.
  • Homebirths protect women and families from exposure to COVID inside health facilities. Midwives working in communities can provide care to women where they live.
  • We must avoid drafting midwives into the COVID response in health care facilities. Deploying midwives from midwifery to nursing services to provide care to general patients with COVID-19 takes them away from their essential role with women and makes the midwife shortage even worse.

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