When it comes to health policy, India often strangely lunges at the mistakes of the US, ignoring insights and better approaches from Europe.
India has an irrational fear of midwives. To some, it is a reminder of the village dais of yore—who were untrained, unlike proper midwives—with their unhygienic practices and unscientific opinions. Understandably, therefore, many women are unsure of the quality of care they might receive from a midwife, compared to a doctor.
But there is growing evidence that trained midwives are as good as doctors in taking care of pregnant women and in overseeing uncomplicated births. In the United Kingdom, for instance, there is a recognition that “all women need a midwife, and some need a doctor too.”
Our singular focus on just the outcome (of reducing deaths) has sadly led to a gross neglect of the right methods to achieve it, with the health system forgetting that a pregnant woman is a human being (and “not a birthing machine”) who deserves to be treated respectfully and provided all information honestly. Midwives are an important part of the answer here as maternity systems with midwives tend to be more humanistic and personal, more respectful of women, and less interventional.
Midwifery might not be a comprehensive answer to India’s maternity mess, but it is an important and necessary part of the answer.