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Celebrating the International Day of the Midwife 

5th May 2023

A view from our Principal Consultant - Health Care Service Delivery, Mia Hessel

In 2009, when working in Nepal for a large maternal health and SRHR organisation, I got the opportunity to visit remote villages up in the Himalayas. In every village that we passed, women asked me ‘are you a midwife?’ The women that I met were all in their own unique situation – being pregnant for the fourth and fifth time and nervous about giving birth once more; experiencing postnatal complications; or about to enter her reproductive years. Coming from a programme management background, I desperately felt that the knowledge and skillset that I had weren’t enough to provide the support that these women and their families needed. It was following this trip that the dream of becoming a midwife was planted inside me.

Mia working on triage in the maternity unit at Basildon & Thurrock university hospital, Essex, United Kingdom

14 years later – I am now a qualified and practicing midwife, who’s got the wonderful privilege to be able to combine the two worlds. As midwife, I get the opportunity to directly facilitate positive experiences and health outcomes for women and families, both in the UK and globally. As a new Principal Consultant – Health Care Service Delivery with Crown Agents, I hope to be able to continue to contribute to the improvement of access, availability, delivery and quality of health care services, through technical support, and management of programmes and health system strengthening initiatives with large impact. My midwifery experience and clinical skills provides me with a deepened understanding of what it means to provide health care services in low resource settings. I now truly understand the complexity around introducing a new care pathway or process in an obstetric health facility or what it means to ask health professionals to change their way of practice. I now truly can appreciate what it feels like to be a midwife managing an emergency on a labour ward with limited resources.

As the international Confederation of Midwives (2023) state – Midwives are critical to improving sexual and reproductive health access and outcomes, reducing maternal mortality and saving new-born lives. Midwives are actually the most versatile health professional – they can provide more than 90% of all reproductive healthcare. Investing in the midwifery workforce would not only increase women’s, children’s and adolescent’s access to health care but help to drive tangible progress in strengthening primary health care systems and provide a pathway to universal health coverage. According to UNICEF (2021), investing in midwife- delivered interventions could avert two thirds of maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths, allowing 4.3 million lives to be saved annually by 2035.

I’m incredibly proud to be able to call myself a midwife and be part of this extraordinary workforce – and I hope that you’ll join me in celebrating the International Day of the Midwife. Please take a moment to recognise the vital work that midwives provide and the contribution they make to maternal and new-born health worldwide.