Education, regulation and association (ERA) are the supporting pillars of an enabling environment for midwives to provide quality care. This study explores these three pillars in the 73 low- and middle-income countries who participated in the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) 2014 report. It also examines the progress made since the previous report in 2011.
A self-completion questionnaire collected quantitative and qualitative data on ERA characteristics and organisation in the 73 countries. The countries were grouped according to World Health Organization (WHO) regions. A descriptive analysis was conducted.
In 82% of the participating countries, the minimum education level requirement to start midwifery training was grade 12 or above. The average length of training was higher for direct-entry programmes at 3.1 years than for post-nursing/healthcare provider programmes at 1.9 years. The median number of supervised births that must be conducted before graduation was 33 (range 0 to 240). Fewer than half of the countries had legislation recognising midwifery as an independent profession. This legislation was particularly lacking in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. In most (90%) of the participating countries, governments were reported to have a regulatory role, but some reported challenges to the role being performed effectively. Professional associations were widely available to midwives in all regions although not all were exclusive to midwives.
Compared with the 2011 SoWMy report, there is evidence of increasing effort in low- and middle-income countries to improve midwifery education, to strengthen the profession and to follow international ERA standards and guidelines. However, not all elements are being implemented equally; some variability persists between and within regions. The education pillar showed more systematic improvement in the type of programme and length of training. The reinforcement of regulation through the development of legislation for midwifery, a recognised definition and the strengthening of midwives’ associations would benefit the development of other ERA elements and the profession generally.