The Americas Coming Together for Midwifery in Mexico

By Elena Ateva, Maternal and Newborn Health Policy and Advocacy Advisor, White Ribbon Alliance

On February 15 and 16, White Ribbon Alliance and the Safe Motherhood Committee in Mexico convened the 6th National Technical Consultation on Maternal and Newborn Health. This gathering of civil society, professional and traditional midwives, nurses and doctors, and federal and state ministries from eight Mexican states was a strategic moment meant to build vital support for midwifery. It marks the final year of a multi-year initiative spearheaded by the MacArthur Foundation to help build the movement for midwifery in Mexico. It is also a year of political change with elections expected in July.

I was honored to be asked to open the meeting, which was largely spent developing a political advocacy strategy to create long-term sustainability for women-centered care. Today, I’d like to share with you the three messages I shared with our colleagues in Mexico.

Nazarea Herrera (CNEGYSR), Dra. Blanca Rico (UNFPA), and Matthias Sachse (UNICEF) on the opening panel of 6th National Technical Consultation on Maternal and Newborn Health. © Safe Motherhood Committee Mexico/Fernando Izaguirre.

You are not alone

Most people believe they are facing unique challenges that only exist in their country, be it Mexico or the United States. This is rarely the case. Presentations from the Lancet Series on Midwifery and the Lancet Series on Maternal Health showed participants that there are many similar issues that other countries are grappling with. Katie Millar, one of the co-authors of the Lancet series, shared examples of overmedicalization in the United States and raising C-section rates, a problem that Mexico also struggles with.

The good news is that it means Mexico can utilize examples from other countries who are facing the same problems, one of which was shared by Maria Helena Bastos, a co-author of the Lancet Midwifery series and an advisor to the Brazilian Ministry of Health on their innovative Red Stork program. The goal of the program was establishing a network of care to ensure women’s right to reproductive health and humanized care for pregnancy, childbirth and postnatally, as well as ensuring children the right to safe birth, breastfeeding, healthy growth and development.

You are building the future

The work of redefining the way maternity care is provided impacts generations. The way we deliver our babies shapes our societies and paves the way for prosperity for the whole nation. Ms. Nazarea Herrera from the National Center for Gender Equality and Reproductive Health reiterated this in her presentation, showing examples from the Lancet Midwifery series as ways they can “provide comprehensive services and skilled care for all.” She recognized that “policy to promote midwifery needs to be scaled up.” It is not easy, but building the future never is.

You are representing those who cannot be here

There are countless others who cannot be in the room with us, we must make sure that their voices are heard and that their needs are met. It is our ultimate responsibility as civil society, researchers, policy-makers and implementers to ensure that we always put women and their families at the center of everything we do. Dr. Erika Bravo from the General Directorate for Quality in Healthcare and Education characterized this further when she said “Quality of care is positive, respectful care by providers, including intercultural care.”

Dr. Rodolfo Orozco, from the public health department in the state of Guerrero, where the highest number of midwives were hired, shared inspiring examples of working with traditional and professional midwives to deliver skilled care for large populations of indigenous women and Afro descendants in some of the hardest to reach places in the country. Clemencia Guevara, a member of the Safe Motherhood Committee summarized this idea eloquently, “We need to empower midwives to realize their human rights, their cultural rights.”

As the ground shook below our feet in yet another earthquake affecting Mexico, it strengthened our resolve to act now so that women, babies and families can depend on giving birth in a safe place with a skilled provider of their choice and receive the high-quality, respectful care they deserve.

White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. We harness the power of local women and men to achieve lasting change. Our approach is working. Subscribe to WRA’s newsletter VOICES and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on White Ribbon Alliance’s global maternal health campaigns.