The Lancet Series on Midwifery

The essential needs of childbearing women, their babies and families in all countries are the focus of a provocative series of international studies on midwifery to be published by The Lancet.

The series reveals that many of those needs are not met – and in fact are often ignored or denied – and puts forward a number of midwifery-centred recommendations that can be tailored to individual communities and countries, whether they are low-, middle- or high-income. If implemented, these recommendations are potentially life-saving for mothers and babies, especially those most at risk.

It shows the scale of the positive impact that can be achieved when midwifery is implemented effectively and explores in detail the necessary health system conditions needed to realise these outcomes. Examples are given from countries where midwives have helped reduce deaths among mothers and infants.

The Lancet Series on Midwifery consists of four separate papers that have been developed collaboratively by a multidisciplinary group of clinical, academic, research, policy, advocacy and other experts from around the world. Together, the papers address key issues on the role of midwifery in the world today, and challenge much of the current thinking and attitudes about it among health professionals and decision makers.

Case studies from many countries illustrate existing problems and identify the conditions needed to strengthen midwifery and thereby improve outcomes for mothers and babies.  

The series puts forward an evidence-based framework for action on what childbearing women and newborn infants actually need, rather than what they often get.

The series advocates for new measures to identify and tackle systematic barriers to midwifery, such as inter-professional rivalries, the low status of women, and poor understanding of what midwifery is and what it can achieve.

A new evidence-based Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework (QMNC) developed as part of the series has enabled specific analysis of outcomes improved and mechanisms of action. It is intended to be relevant to any setting and to all who need, or provide, maternal and newborn care and services, and can be adapted to meet specific demands in all countries.

The Lancet articles together adopt a human rights-based approach and promote a long-term view, aiming for effective solutions and quality care and services, as opposed to quick-fix and unsustainable options.

The series complements the United Nations Secretary-General’s ‘Every Women, Every Child’ campaign and supports Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6. It builds on The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011 and complements The State of the World’s Midwifery 2014, with recommendations to address the key barriers that need to be tackled to enable effective implementation of midwifery at scale.

The Lancet Series on Midwifery is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.