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  • Writer's pictureHannah Hunt

The Role of Midwives in the Climate Crisis

This Sunday May 5th, we alongside thousands of midwives across the globe will be celebrating International Day of the Midwife 2024. The International Confederation of Midwives announced this year's theme to be "Midwives: A Vital Climate Solution" to highlight the crucial role midwives play during the climate crisis in delivering sustainable healthcare, which they identify as "The greatest health challenge of our time".

Many midwives may not even realise just how important their unique skills and actions are for the planet, women, and birthing people at this uniquely challenging time in human history. As the affects of climate change become more and more apparent, it is critical for us to shine a light on the role of midwives not only as a way of giving them our much-deserved thanks, but also to inform future actions and initiatives.

Climate change has both direct and indirect effects on health, including but not limited to:

  • Influencing the presence and distribution of vector-borne diseases

  • Increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, causing immediate injury and disruption to healthcare infrastructure

  • Destabilising food and water security

  • Air quality degradation causing respiratory illnesses

  • Population displacement and migration leading to high volumes of refugees

  • Psychosocial stress caused by the above

The WHO conservatively projects 250,000 additional yearly deaths by the 2030s due to climate change impacts on diseases like malaria and coastal flooding.

An overview of climate-sensitive health risks, their exposure pathways and vulnerability factors. Climate change impacts health both directly and indirectly, and is strongly mediated by environmental, social and public health determinants.

Figure 1 source: World Health Organisation, 2024. Read more here.

There is an inescapable link between the climate crisis and accessible, safe, resource-effective healthcare.

Midwives provide all of the above, and more. In a report on midwifery education and care, the WHO noted:

"Midwives are uniquely able to provide essential services to women and newborns in even the most difficult humanitarian, fragile and conflict-affected settings...beyond preventing maternal and newborn deaths, quality midwifery care improves over 50 other health-related outcomes, including sexual and reproductive health, immunisation, breastfeeding, tobacco cessation malaria, TB, HIV and obesity in pregnancy, early childhood development and postpartum depression."

Specifically in the context of the developing climate crisis, midwives possess a unique skillset which puts them at the forefront of humanitarian defence. Additionally, the care model of midwifery itself promotes sustainability and resource effectiveness, whilst putting the mother or parent at the centre of their care. Some of the ways in which midwives achieve this are;

  • Sustainable practices - Evidence shows that continuity of midwife care leads to optimal and safe outcomes by using fewer resources, resulting in less medical waste and a reduced ecological footprint (ICM, 2024).

  • Supporting breastfeeding - Continuity of midwife care also empowers mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals, meaning mothers will often breastfeed longer. Breastfeeding requires no packaging or shipping, creates no waste and has a negligible water footprint (ICM, 2024).

  • Sexual education - By empowering women and birthing people through education on their reproductive health, and giving access to abortion care and birth control, it enables them to make informed choices about when or if they want to have children. This reduces their vulnerability to the oftentimes unpredictable effects of climate change.

  • Mental health support - Midwives are able to recognise the signs and support those experiencing mental health challenges during and after pregnancy, a crucial skill given the growing evidence on how the climate crisis is affecting mental health worldwide.

  • Community based care - Midwives often work within communities providing accessible and culturally sensitive care, making them especially well-positioned to deliver essential maternity and healthcare services in resource-constrained settings.

AGHealth are proud to have a team of midwives who support our customers, offering clinical advice and personalised training to ensure the best possible outcomes for your women and birthing people. To further our mission to offer safe and effective products with sustainability at the core of our imperative, we are thrilled to say that since 2023 we are officially a carbon neutral company.

To every midwife reading this, we want to extend our most sincere and heartfelt thanks for everything you do for your women, patients, and planet.

Despite the immense pressures and challenges you face day-to-day, let alone during a time of unprecedented global change, you continue to selflessly offer your empathy, care, and dedication. We extend the same gratitude to those midwives who have left the service to follow another path - your contributions and impact have been, and will always be, just as valuable.


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