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Midwives in France - extinction & rebellion

Agnès Simon, President, European Midwives Association, Belgium

Health professionals in Europe are facing another serious crisis: Midwives in many European nations are struggling and rebelling, the roots of this profound malaise are often similar. On 7 October, 7000 midwives demonstrated in the streets of Paris, representing one quarter of the French midwifery workforce.

The midwifery profession is now exhausted and going through an unprecedented crisis. If the malaise is old and deep, the profession is currently in danger: its future is now compromised. But worse, it is actually the health and the rights of women that are threatened.

Midwives, after 18 months of health crisis triggered by COVID-19, are disillusioned by developments in France including the health workers Convention and the ministerial announcements on 16 September. The proposals made by the representatives of the profession - an increase in remuneration in line with their responsibilities, a change in the status of hospital midwives, and a move towards more personalised support for women - were rejected outright.

As the president of the French Chamber wrote: “For decades, our essentially female profession serving women has been misunderstood, despised and neglected.”

The health crisis we are going through has revealed the inadequacies of our health system and their impact on patients, especially women. Thus, professionals and users of perinatal care share the same observation: lack of personnel, lack of time to accompany patients, lack of consideration of women's and couples' expectations, disruption of care and exhaustion of professionals...

Will they ever be heard?
Read an open letter from the French Midwives Order (07/10/21).