It is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and we are in the midst of a global pandemic. The world is reeling with the consequences of an unstoppable COVID-19 virus spread with reports of growing morbidities and mortalities each day, yet mothers and their unborn and newborn babies continue to need safe, compassionate maternity care. Whilst most childbearing women and their babies are healthy, they may experience clinical, psychological, and social vulnerabilities (Renfrew et al 2020).

In normal circumstances midwifery is acknowledged as the solution for quality maternal and newborn care (Renfrew et al 2014). In addition, midwives have been identified as having an essential role to play in humanitarian settings due to their position in communities, unique knowledge and skills (Beek et al 2019). However, in some parts of the world midwifery led services are being reduced due to various reasons including shortage of midwives (for various reasons) and lack of appropriate transfer systems.

During times of crisis there are greater risks of avoidable harm (Renfrew et al 2020) and in some countries reports are coming through that unnecessary interventions are being imposed such as Caesarean section deliveries and separation of mothers and babies even though international policy and position statement advice the contrary (ICM 2020, RCOG, WHO 2020). These events are in direct opposition to the increasing global movement to humanise childbirth from international policy to the direct contact we have with mothers, babies and families (Newnham et al 2018; Newnham & Page 2020) and it is our duty to challenge the situation.

At the end of this pandemic we are likely to see significant economic downturn where the most vulnerable will suffer the most. We must remember this and direct our attention to maximise the potential for a positive mother-infant connection during the critical time at birth, and early years.

This session will present the above challenges faced by midwives, mothers and families and offer potential solutions to support midwives in their quest to continue to provide optimal, humanised maternity care.


Beek, K., McFadden, A. and Dawson, A. (2019) “The role and scope of practice of midwives in humanitarian settings: A systematic review and content analysis,” Human Resources for Health. BioMed Central Ltd

International Confederation of Midwives. Rights in childbirth must be upheld during the coronavirus pandemic. Position statement (2020) Available at:’s- rights-in-childbirth-must-be-upheld-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html

Newnham E, McKellar L, Pincombe J. (2018) Towards the humanisation of birth: epidural analgesia and hospital birth culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan;

Newnham E. Humanisation of childbirth series article 8, Where do we go from here? The Practising Midwife. 2020;23(4):15-17.

RCOG (2020) Information for pregnant women and their families. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London. services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/

Renfrew, M. J. et al. (2014) “Midwifery and quality care: Findings from a new evidence- informed framework for maternal and newborn care,” The Lancet. Lancet Publishing Group, pp. 1129–1145.

Renfrew MJ, Cheyne HL, Hunter B, Downe S. with Sandall J, Spiby H, Dykes F, Lavender T, Page L. Optimising maternity services and maternal and newborn outcomes in a pandemic: a rapid analytic scoping review. 2020. Royal College of Midwives, London. Available at:

World Health Organization. COVID-19: Operational guidance for maintaining essential health services during an outbreak. Available at: