ICM Americas Conference in Suriname: Invest in Healthy Pregnancy; Invest in Midwives

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By: Lauren French Hoy, Professional Midwife and Independent Research Consultant, MSM, CPM

lauren french hoy professional midwife

In July, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) held their 5th Regional Americas Conference in Suriname, “Invest in Healthy Pregnancy; Invest in Midwives,” which endorsed midwives taking the lead role as primary professionals responsible in promoting healthy pregnancies, and thereby ensuring healthy mothers and babies.

As world leaders prepare to announce the new global development goals for 2030, it is critical to strengthen and support midwifery care as it is well-positioned to realize the global maternal health goals. ICM represents more than 400,000 midwives globally, has 121 midwifery association members from 108 countries and envisions a world where every childbearing woman and her newborn have access to a midwife’s care.

ICM has made significant strides in promoting midwifery including publishing, with UNFPA and the World Health Organization, a revised analysis of current midwifery trends and data in 73 countries, The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 (SoWMy 2014).

Francis Day-Stirk international confederation of midwives suriname maternal health midwives midwife
Francis Day-Stirk, President of ICM, presents at ICM’s 5th Regional Americas Conference in Suriname

At the conference, ICM president Frances Day-Stirk’s consistent themes for global midwifery were autonomy and advocacy. Thus, she urged midwives to receive policy strategy and negotiation training so they could participate at both regional and national levels in order to have a stronger influence to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes. She elaborated on ICM’s pillars of education (empower), regulation (research) and association (advocate) and quoted Declercq’s six political lessons for midwives:

  1. Learn to communicate with policy makers
  2. Research matters
  3. Coalition building is important
  4. The media cares
  5. It is easier to defend the status quo than create new policy
  6. It is essential to clarify who is to be considered a midwife

In Suriname, ICM and Family Care International used the SoWMy toolkit, Making the Case for Midwifery, to provide two workshops that trained midwives how to create public policy and address barriers and priorities for midwifery care in their individual nations. Creating a supportive policy and practice environment for midwives is critical since ICM reports that with education, regulation and support, midwives can and should safely deliver 87% of the newborns in these countries. The following video demonstrates the importance of professionalization and practice of midwifery care to save women’s lives.

(Vea en Español)

The majority of participants at the conference were midwives, but nurses, researchers, Ministry of Health officials and representatives from global health organizations also attended. Dr. Marthelise Ersel, from the University of Suriname, opened the first day by posing the question of why Suriname does not have a goal of zero tolerance for maternal mortality as it does with malaria. She suggested that the national protocol could be the same: when there is one death, the multidisciplinary committee is convened, the case discussed and immediate solutions are sought.

Dr. Vicky Camacho from UNFPA stated that the Latin American region still loses 9,300 women and 106,000 infants annually and most of these deaths are preventable. Tragically, stillbirths are still not counted in these numbers. As such, improving sexual and reproductive health is at the core of UNFPA’s objectives.

In 2013, in collaboration with ICM, UNFPA launched the Young Midwifery Leaders Programme (YML) in Quito, Ecuador and is now translating the modules to offer it in the Caribbean. The program has also trained 44 master midwifery teachers in two competency-based education programs in the Caribbean and Peru, where five Latin American countries participated. Dr. Camacho announced that in 2015, two new direct-entry midwifery programs were opened in Haiti and Guatemala based on ICM standards and competencies.

Midwives and investigators from Chile presented a wealth of research during the conference. Chile boasts a scientific society of midwifery and provides support to midwives to present at national and international conferences and publish in a peer-reviewed journal once a year.

ICM Caribbean members presented numerous studies, one of which was a study on the implementation of competence-based education in seven countries in the Caribbean. This study was significant since ICM is pushing for all midwifery education models to be based on the ICM standards and competencies so that all midwives globally are competent when they graduate. On the last day, a session on gender-based and obstetric violence highlighted the importance of fighting violence at all levels of women’s reproductive health care.

The ICM conference in Suriname closed with representatives from the Canadian Association of Midwives and its sister organization, the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, inviting all midwives around the globe to the 31st ICM Triennial Congress, “Midwives Making a Difference in the World,” which will be held in Toronto from June 18 – 22, 2017.

For more information about the ICM conference in Suriname, contact info@madreluz.com.