A midwife is a professional in midwifery. Their education and training equips them to recognise the variations of normal progress of labor, and understand how to deal with deviations from normal. They may intervene in high risk situations such as breech births, twin births and births where the baby is in a posterior position, using non-invasive techniques. When a pregnant woman requires care beyond the midwife's scope of practice, they refer women to obstetricians or perinatologists, who are medical specialists in complications related to pregnancy and birth, including surgical and instrumental deliveries. In many parts of the world, these professions work in tandem to provide care to childbearing women. In others, only the midwife is available to provide care, and in yet other countries many women elect to utilize obstetricians primarily over midwives.
Many developing countries are investing money and training for midwives, sometimes by upskilling those women already practising as traditional birth attendants. Some primary care services are currently lacking due to the shortage of money being funded for these resources.
According to the definition of the International Confederation of Midwives, which has also been adopted by the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics:
A midwife is a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education programme that is recognised in the country where it is located and that is based on the ICM Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.
The word derives from Old English mid, "with" and wif, "woman", and thus originally meant "with-woman", that is, the person who is with the mother at childbirth. The word is used to refer to both male and female midwives.
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