Birth is the time when the risk of death is greatest. Globally, more than 1 million deaths occur on the first day of life, and an additional 1.3 million stillbirths and 303,000 maternal deaths occur during childbirth. Most of these deaths could have been averted. Midwives and others with midwifery skills are the single most important cadre for preventing maternal, neonatal deaths, and stillbirths, but the number of midwives falls far short of the need. There is a global shortage of 3.5 million health workers, including 350,000 midwives, which puts millions of women and newborns at risk.
In low-resource settings, midwives provide the majority of immediate care to newborns born in facilities, often despite a lack of support or training for newborn care. The 2017 ICM Triennial Congress, hosted by ICM and the Canadian Association of Midwives, will highlight challenges facing midwifery at the policy and facility level and the work needed to ensure that women and babies receive high-quality, women-centered midwifery care wherever they may be. The theme for the 2017 Congress is Midwives: Making a Difference in the World.