Celebrating the International Day of the Midwife

Burnet Institute

05 May, 2020

On May the 5th each year, we celebrate the International Day of the Midwife to acknowledge the importance of midwives in saving lives and ensuring good outcomes for mothers and babies.

In 2020, the day is doubly important, falling as it does in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Interestingly, while COVID-19 may have robbed the day of some of its focus, Professor Caroline Homer AO believes the pandemic has brought into sharper relief the qualities that make midwives especially important.

“Midwives have always been adaptable and flexible and tried to do the best with the circumstances that they’re in,” Professor Homer, Burnet Institute Co-Program Director, Maternal and Child Health, said.

“But I think this year they’ve had to draw upon those skills even more, and so they are now more than ever leaders in the healthcare system, trying to work out how to deliver maternal and newborn health services in a different way, and they are at the table in policy, in education, in practice.

“COVID-19 presents an enormous challenge, but it’s brought teams together in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen for a long time, and midwives all over the world have adapted to ensure that maternal and newborn services still happen despite the difficulties around us.”

Those difficulties are not insignificant.

Midwives in some countries are reportedly not being allowed to return to their homes because neighbours say they are at high risk of infection from COVID-19.

In many settings, personal protective equipment is simply not available, and COVID-19 has denied midwives the opportunity to be close to women, which is fundamental to midwifery.

“I think what covid-19 has done in in many countries, not only low- and middle-income countries, is expose weak health systems,” Professor Homer said.

“It’s exposed deficiencies in governance of health systems, in access for families and women and patients to universal health coverage, and challenges in getting equipment to the front line.

“While those are hard, they’re good things in a way to expose because once you expose these challenges you can work on them – even in rich countries where we’re discovering weak aspects of health systems that we now need to work on.

“I am an optimist and I hope that we learn from the work that we’re doing.”

Find out more about Burnet’s work in Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, and how you can support our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies research program to provide life-saving health care for women and children in Papua New Guinea.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Caroline Homer AO

Burnet Executive Team; Co-Program Director, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health; Working Group Head


[email protected]

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