Friday, April 30, 2010

State of Florida Celebrates International Day of the Midwife

April 30, 2010 (Florida) -- May 5th is the International Day of the Midwife, a day set aside in 1991 by the International Confederation of Midwives and observed in over 50 nations worldwide. In 1992, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles joined in this celebration by adding Florida to the growing list of states and countries that observe this day.

The World Health Organization states: “On the International Day of the Midwife, we pay tribute to the work of the midwives who are key healthcare providers in facilities and communities. They provide the high‐quality and cost‐effective package of care desperately needed by millions of women around the world. The World Health Organization recognizes the contribution of midwives to the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality and renews its support to quality midwifery!”

Special Events Throughout Florida

In honor of this day, Florida Friends of Midwives, a non-profit consumer organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the practice of midwifery in Florida, will host events throughout the state, and support those hosted by sister organizations. On May 5th, The Florida School of Traditional Midwifery will host their annual celebration of the day in Gainesville, featuring special guests Jill Sonke and Cindy Nelly of the University of Florida Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education (CAHRE). Sonke and Nelly have spearheaded arts in medicine missions in Rwanda, the Congo, and most recently Haiti. On May 6th in Sarasota, Florida Friends of Midwives will host an exclusive screening of Guerrilla Midwife, a documentary recently showcased at the Sarasota Film Festival. The film follows midwife Robin Lim along the streets of Bali and into the Acehnese refugee camps of the Indonesian Archipelago, where the midwifery model of care is put to the test, at the epicenter of the turmoil following the December 2004 Tsunami. And on May 8th, the Miami Florida Friends of Midwives chapter will show the film Laboring Under an Illusion, an anthropological exploration of media-generated myths about childbirth.

A Florida Midwife’s Perspective of International Midwifery

No stranger to the international disparity in childbirth practice, Orlando Licensed Midwife Jennie Joseph was the first foreign-trained midwife to be licensed under the Midwifery Practice Act in Florida in 1994. “I trained as a midwife in England 31 years ago and graduated in May of 1981 with the knowledge that midwifery was the 'gold standard' of care for women worldwide,” says Joseph. “Imagine my surprise on arriving in the US in 1989, where I quickly discovered a total lack of interest, understanding or even acknowledgment of the importance of midwives for a nations health.”

Ms. Joseph is executive director of The Birth Place, a free-standing birthing facility in Winter Garden, and the developer of The JJ WAY, a Maternal Child Healthcare delivery model for indigent women. “Today, I begin to have hope that American's are opening up to the benefits of midwifery in matters of choice, safety, empowerment and economy; that we realize that the midwifery model of care can be the vehicle that moves us higher up on the list of countries providing exemplary maternity care for it's citizens, and that truly 'a midwife for every mother' is not an impossible dream,” says Joseph. “A heartfelt thank you to all the midwives - past, present and future and Happy International Midwives Day!”

Midwives have a long and valued history in Florida. The state first passed legislation to license direct-entry midwives in 1931, and the first Certified Nurse Midwife was licensed in Florida in 1970. Florida’s midwives have continued to tirelessly serve the families of Florida and to ensure the continued availability of safe, evidence-based birthing options for Florida’s families.

About Florida Friends of Midwives: Florida Friends of Midwives is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the Midwives Model of Care and supporting the practice of midwifery in Florida. Florida Friends of Midwives was formed to support midwives who offer safe, cost-effective, evidence based care to Florida's families. For more information, please visit

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Response to Report on Decline in Maternal Health

This letter was printed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Sunday, April 18th. Laura Gilkey is the Vice President of Florida Friends of Midwives.

I disagree with those who urged The Lancet to delay publicizing the recent decline in global maternal mortality ("Maternal Deaths see surprising decline worldwide," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 14, page 1A). It should be a beacon of hope that improved nutrition, access to prenatal care, and the availability of skilled attendants is increasing. In 80% of the world, those skilled attendants are midwives. After witnessing the work of Ibu Robin Lim in the Sarasota Film Festival screening of “Guerilla Midwife,” I am inspired to believe that the resurgence of traditional midwifery worldwide is no small factor in this global shift toward healthier birth.

However, one disturbing trend remains missing from the Lancet findings. In the United States, maternal mortality continues to rise sharply. According to the recently released Amnesty International report "Deadly Delivery," U.S. maternal mortality ratios have doubled from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006, placing us 41st in the world in this category. The report attributes the increase to inadequate access to family planning, less than optimal health, late or inadequate prenatal care, inadequate or inappropriate care during delivery, and limited access to post-natal care.

The United States spends more on health care than any other nation in the world, yet we are failing our pregnant women. We must prioritize accountability of data collection, increase access to midwifery and to prenatal care, eliminate inappropriate obstetric intervention, and mandate postpartum visitation for new mothers.