Midwives speaking out on COVID-19: The international confederation of midwives global survey

Donna L. Hartz, Sally K. Tracy, Sally Pairman, Ann Yates, Charlotte Renard, Pat Brodie, Sue Kildea

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BACKGROUND: Maternity services around the world have been disrupted since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) representing one hundred and forty-three professional midwifery associations across the world sought to understand the impact of the pandemic on women and midwives. AIM: The aim of this study was to understand the global impact of COVID-19 from the point of view of midwives' associations. METHODS: A descriptive cross-sectional survey using an on-line questionnaire was sent via email to every midwives' association member of ICM. SURVEY INSTRUMENT: The survey was developed and tested by a small global team of midwife researchers and clinicians. It consisted of 106 questions divided into seven discreet sections. Each member association was invited to make one response in either English, French or Spanish. RESULTS: Data were collected between July 2020 and April 2021. All respondents fulfilling the inclusion criteria irrespective of whether they completed all questions in the survey were eligible for analysis. All data collected was anonymous. There were 101 surveys returned from the 143 member associations across the world. Many countries reported being caught unaware of the severity of the infection and in some places, midwives were forced to make their own PPE, or reuse single use PPE. Disruption to maternity services meant women had to change their plans for place of birth; and in many countries maternity facilities were closed to become COVID-19 centres. Half of all respondents stated that women were afraid to give birth in hospitals during the pandemic resulting in increased demand for home birth and community midwifery. Midwifery students were denied access to practical or clinical placements and their registration as midwives has been delayed in many countries. More than 50% of the associations reported that governments did not consult them, and they have little or no say in policy at government levels. These poor outcomes were not exclusive to high-, middle- or low-income countries. CONCLUSIONS: Strong recommendations that stem from this research include the need to include midwifery representation on key government committees and a need to increase the support for planned out of hospital birth. Both these recommendations stand to enhance the effectiveness of midwives in a world that continues to face and may face future catastrophic pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0276459
Pages (from-to)e0276459
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11 November
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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