Midwives in New Zealand are inviting colleagues in the health services, politicians, consumer organisations, mothers and babies to acknowledge their work on International Day of the Midwife, 5 May.
The theme of the annual international event this year is that "the world needs midwives now more than ever". Midwives are recognised internationally as playing a vital role in keeping mothers and babies safe. More than 287,000 women and more than 3 million infants around the world die each year as a result of preventable pregnancy and childbirth complications. Most of these deaths would be prevented if there were enough qualified and adequately resourced midwives.
New Zealand midwives contribute to the development of the profession overseas through links with the International Confederation of Midwives, which organises International Day of the Midwife and through roles they take up personally, often on a voluntary basis in developing countries.
Karen Guilliland, chief executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives says that New Zealand midwives are respected overseas because they are well-regulated, highly educated and are at the centre of their state operated maternity system.
New Zealand women are fortunate in already having access to high quality midwifery care but the role of the midwife in this country is not always well understood, says Mrs Guilliland.
"We know, from the formal feedback process we operate at the College, and from the Government's own Maternity Consumer Survey that women value the maternity care they receive.
"But it is inevitable that, when something goes wrong there will be adverse publicity. Part of being a well-developed profession is that we have good processes in place to investigate and, where necessary to apply disciplinary measures. But it would be a tragedy if media reporting of these cases were to undermine the excellent maternity care system that we have in New Zealand."
Mrs Guilliland says that there is already evidence that publicity about adverse events in the traditional media and also now in social media is resulting in comment that is sometimes threatening and abusive.
"We cannot allow the safety of our midwives to be threatened in this way as they go about their work in the community, in birthing units and hospitals.
"For International Day of the Midwife this year we are asking colleagues, policy makers and anyone with an interest in the welfare of mothers and babies to stand with us and acknowledge the work of midwives. We want to get the word out that New Zealand has a great maternity care system led by a highly professional midwifery workforce."
The New Zealand College of Midwives has written to the Minister of Health, Opposition health spokespersons, consumer and health organisations asking them to support midwives. A copy of the letter, which outlines the everyday work of midwives in New Zealand is attached along with background information on midwives in New Zealand.