Midwife-led interventions could save 4.3 million lives every year, says WHO

on 11 January 2021

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found about two-thirds of maternal deaths, newborn deaths and stillbirths could be prevented by 2035 by investing more into midwife-led interventions.

The study, led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WHO and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), was published in the Lancet Global Health.

Based on the study’s modelled estimates, it indicates that where midwife-led interventions, such as family planning, diabetes management, assisted delivery and breastfeeding support, 4.3 million lives could be saved per year by 2035.

WHO Chief Nursing Officer, Elizabeth Iro, said: “These findings should leave no doubt in the minds of ministers of health, education and finance that midwife-led interventions have the potential to save the lives of women and their newborns at a vast scale. Now it is time to act. We must take urgent action to invest in midwives.”

The study used data from 88 low and middle-income countries where deaths were averted, and account for more than 95% of global maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths. These countries are home to 74% of the world’s population but just 46% of the world’s doctors, nurses and midwives, sighting a shortage in staff.

Based on the findings, the study recommends the current level of care by professional midwives educated and regulated to international standards to be scaled up to provide universal access.

This study is based on a 2014 publication in The Lancet Series in Midwifery and uses the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) which models variations of deaths based on the uptake, effectiveness and impact of around 30 midwife-led interventions.

Using an updated version of LiST the latest study provides three scenarios on the impact of increasing midwifery provision around the world; achieving universal coverage by 2035, increasing coverage of midwife-led interventions by 25% every 5 years, or increasing coverage by 10% every 5 years.