2020 International Year of Midwifery – In the midst of a pandemic

on 25 August 2020

Furuta M (2020). Midwifery 87 (August 2020): 102739.

This editorial, which appeared in the August 2020 issue of Midwifery, discusses the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected maternal health services in Japan in the antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal periods. 

Midwives in Japan, as in countries all over the world, are committed to providing women with the best possible care and are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19 in a variety of ways. Amid concerns that testing procedures were inadequate, requiring a person to be exhibiting at least three typical COVID-19 symptoms for several days before qualifying for a test under the national health insurance system, potentially putting the public and health care professionals at risk, the Japanese Midwives Association lobbied the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to promote COVID-19 screening for all pregnant women visiting hospitals. When this article was written, the implementation of testing was under consideration by the government.

Policy recommendations calling for the suspension of antenatal classes and non-essential appointments and replacing them with remote support where feasible, have necessitated new ways for midwives to prepare women for labour, birth and new motherhood, with many producing electronic materials, and providing online advice.

Women’s choice of place of birth has also been affected. The traditional custom of ‘satogaeri’ (里帰り), where women register with a clinic in their hometown some months earlier and then return in the last month of pregnancy, therefore securing the support of the family of origin during labour and in the postnatal period, has been compromised by travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic to stem the spread of infection. Women are advised either not to relocate, or to move months in advance. This is having a direct effect on the provision of maternal health services.

Midwifery education is also facing disruption, with training currently on hold.

Read the full article here.