Midwife lauded for international impact

Bridget Lynch has travelled the globe to help improve maternal health care

Bridget Lynch made a career choice that was borne of her own experiences in motherhood.

“Following the birth of my first child in hospital and based on my experience of having my healthy newborn taken away from me overnight and being told I needed my rest rather than (be with) my baby, led me to have my second baby at home,” says Lynch, a founding member of the Association of Ontario Midwives.

Then a prenatal educator who advised couples on their birthing options, the experience led Lynch to pursue midwifery.

A believer that women should have the option of choosing a caregiver and place of delivery during childbirth, Lynch delved into maternal health policy-making.

In 1994, after years of work raising the issue at political levels, Lynch became one of the first 60 midwives to be regulated by Ontario, the first province in Canada to regulate and recognize midwifery as a profession. Later that year she became a partner in a midwifery clinic that opened at Bloor and Spadina. Today there are 55 clinics in Ontario and over 500 midwives, a number Lynch expects to double in the next five years.

But Lynch’s efforts to improve the standards of midwifery go beyond provincial — or even federal—borders.

Lynch was the president of the International Confederation of Midwives, the first Canadian to be elected to the position. It was her efforts with this group, which represents more than 250,000 midwives from over 100 countries that garnered her a 2012 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the field of health.

The International Confederation of Midwives works closely with the World Health Organization, the World Bank and various United Nations groups. In 2008, while reviewing a set of eight major global development goals, the UN general assembly discovered one — improving maternal health — had virtually no change or improvement to it.

“At that point everyone got super serious,” Lynch said. “At that time, 500,000 women a year were dying in pregnancy and childbirth.”

Lynch brought people together from various countries, setting up global standards committees and taskforces to improve the standards of midwifery globally.

“As president of the (International Confederation of Midwives), what I did and what I led — and this was a primary goal from the moment I stepped into the position — was to develop global standards for education and regulation of midwives so that a low resource country had reference points for developing an education system as well as regulation standards for quality midwifery standards,” she said.

Three years and 35 countries later, Lynch’s profession had made history.

“We’re the first healthcare profession in the world to have global standards for education and regulation,” she said. “Physicians don’t have it, nurses don’t have it, dentists don’t have it.”

The announcement of the standards took place in Durban, South Africa, at an event Lynch says was a culmination of the efforts of the International Confederation of Midwives during her time as president.

“The coming of age of midwifery at the global stage has happened during these last three years,” she said. “Eight years ago nobody was talking about midwifery, today everybody’s talking about midwifery. Huge achievement.”

Lynch says the work was all done with a goal that midwifery services and the role of midwifery services need to continue to improve both in Canada and across the world.

“That was our absolute hue and cry,” she said. “To step up to claim our place as midwives to improve the health of women globally, but especially in Africa.”


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By: Shawn Star
Posted: Apr 17 2012 12:06 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
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