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In helping ease new life into the world, midwives continue to work with devotion and sacrifice by putting their own health at risk in COVID-19 times too. During the pandemic, they are in the field, going the extra mile – sometimes literally – to reach the hard to reach, by making housecalls or traveling great distances via mobile clinics or filiation teams to alleviate the strain on local health care systems. With the support of UNFPA, midwives are determined to play their role to overcome the COVID-19 barrier in order to achieve the goal of zero preventable maternal deaths and zero unmet need for family planning by 2030.

ANKARA, TURKEY - Her name is Umut. It means “hope” in Turkish. For nearly 30 years, she has been working to give hope to mothers and newborns as one of tens of thousands of midwives in Turkey. Şırnak, Van, Ankara, Denizli, İzmir - Hundreds of babies all over Turkey opened their eyes to the world with her. Countless mothers have survived the most difficult moments of their lives in good health with her support.

Umut explains her love for her job by saying: “I was born in a village. I was born into the hands of a midwife. Her place is still very special to me. My goal is to have the same effect on every mother and child I contact with. It is an indescribable feeling to witness the birth of a living thing and, beyond this, to be a means. When they are born, they touch us before their mothers. That first contact is so special that words are not enough to explain”  

Having said that the first child she gave birth to when she was 18 in 1994 is now 27 years old, "I have only one child but I feel like a mother of dozens of children” Umut says. 

Umut has also been at the forefront in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. She has been on the field for more than a year, providing first-hand support to those in need. She says that especially the first months of the pandemic have been very difficult. She commemorates her colleagues who lost their lives because of the pandemic in tears. 

“It was like a war zone. Nobody knew what was going on. There were times when I felt very anxious, desperate and helpless. I was worried about myself, my family, my colleagues, mothers and the newborn. Now the system is settled, we are much more organized, we do not have equipment shortages. We especially try to be with pregnant women to meet their needs, to comfort them and to support them” she says.

Umut states that midwives are already responsible for 2 lives and they have a very difficult and huge responsibility: “In this process, we also have a duty to protect those lives from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our efforts for mother-child health are even more important now."

Umut also underlines that many pregnant women are still very worried about COVID-19. She says that they mostly have difficulty in persuading pregnant women not to set their controls back. She explains how important this issue is with a painful event that she experienced in this process:

“A 9-month-old pregnant woman had delayed all of her doctor examinations in the past months because she did not want to go to the hospital due to the pandemic. It was too late when we reached her. Unfortunately, she lost her baby."

 Umut midwife is taking care of a newborn ©️ UNFPA Turkey

Umut says that they have encountered many pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 in this process. She states that they have called and followed all of them one by one for 10 days. She also shares information about the control and delivery process:

“If the mother is Covid-19 positive, the baby can also be born positive. We take all necessary precautions for this. Positive pregnant women, mothers and newborns are isolated; services are provided to them in different operating maternity and examination rooms and neonatal services. Therefore, Umut emphasizes that all pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms should inform their midwives and doctors. 

Having reminded pregnant women that they cannot use the necessary drugs for the treatment of COVID-19, Umut says that they should be much more careful. “Isolation is very important. Family and friend visits should be minimized. If their spouse has to go out, they should keep distance even with him. They should definitely use masks” she says. She also underlines the importance of a healthy nutrition and water consumption. 

Delivering babies is not a midwife’s sole job for sure. They also provide antenatal and postnatal care, family planning counselling, sexually transmitted infection detection and treatment and sexual and reproductive health services – in short, midwives promote health and well-being in their community during the pandemic too. 

During the pandemic, many midwives in Turkey have also taken part in the filiation teams established for the detection of COVID-19 cases, medication supply and emergency case management processes. Umut is one of them.

Umut midwife is visiting household with a filiation team ©️ UNFPA Turkey

“We visit all the contact persons one by one. We're testing them if needed. We provide medication for treatment to positive cases within hours. We try to support everyone, children, young people, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly in every way to help them get through this process in the most comfortable and healthy way” explains Umut. She also states that in areas where homeless and refugees are densely populated, there are special teams working on transfer to the dormitories, isolation, maternity services and meeting the needs of families.

The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is; “Follow the Data, Invest in Midwives'' is the theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife. The data, included in the newest State of the World’s Midwifery report launching today (it was last published in 2014), indicate  that achieving universal coverage of midwife-delivered interventions by 2035 would avert 67 percent of maternal deaths, 64 percent of newborn deaths and 65 percent of stillbirths and would save an estimated 4.3 million lives a year. 

To find out more, here is the latest UNFPA report.