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Midwifery matters - Promoting midwifery standards Europe-wide

Mary Higgins reports on the recent EMA AGM held in Estonia

The European Midwives Association (EMA) is a non-governmental organisation of midwifery associations from member states of the EU, members of the Council of Europe, the European Economic Area (EEA) and EU applicant countries. It provides a forum for midwives to meet and discuss issues relating to midwifery and women’s health. It promotes minimum standards for midwifery education and practice and contributes to EU discussions affecting health policy and midwifery.

This year the meeting was held in Tallinn, Estonia on September 26-27. Delegates from 23 countries representing 26 midwifery associations attended. Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and its largest city. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful place to visit.

The meeting was opened by Mervi Jokinen, president of the EMA, and Pille Teesalu, president of the Estonian Midwives Association. The delegates were also welcomed to Estonia by Urmas Kruuse, Estonia’s Minister of Social Affairs, who joined the meeting by video link.

There was a change to the usual meeting format. In previous years the business of the meeting was interspersed with sessions relating to midwifery practice issues. This year all the business was done on the opening day of the meeting and practice matters were the focus for the second day.

The annual and financial reports were discussed and the budget for 2014-2015 agreed. The discussion of the annual report was linked to the strategic plan, an approach that was very helpful as it was easy to see what had been accomplished. Franka Cadeé from the Netherlands presented an evaluation of the EMA Education Conference held in Maastricht in November 2013.

Overall, participants had been very satisfied both with the location and the content. The venue for the next EMA Education Conference is London in 2016 and it will be hosted by the Royal College of Midwives.

There was a report on the EMA and the use of social media and this generated debate on the EMA website which was recently revamped.

A proposed EU project on association twinning was considered. It is likely that funding could be obtained for such an undertaking. Delegates were reluctant to commit their associations to taking part without a clear description of what would be involved. It was decided that the twinning concept could be re-considered at a later date. It has worked very well for the associations that have taken part in north-south ventures. However, it was acknowledged that twinning can be very time consuming.

Following elections and a decision on the venue for AGM 2015, a press release relating to the meeting was prepared. This stated that the EMA had supported Estonian midwives in the process of amending the legislation that regulates midwives and midwifery practice. Such legislative changes have allowed women to choose their place of birth and had provided them with more options for the type of maternity care they can access. The role of the midwife is now fully recognised: their autonomy and their ability to practice independently fulfilling the activities of the midwife as outlined in the EU Directive 2013/55/EU and in accordance with International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) core documents.

The European Midwives Association strongly commends the current developments that have been attained by the Estonian Midwives Association in relation to midwifery in Estonia, in its role in strengthening other midwifery associations and advocating for the development of midwifery education, practice and regulation in Europe.

There was a very interesting presentation by Maret Voites from the Estonian Midwives Association. She described the website for pregnant and postpartum women and their families hosted by the association. It is a wonderful resource for families, providing them not only with information on pregnancy and birth, but also advice on social welfare entitlements and other issues as required.

The preliminary results from the Nordic Homebirth Study were presented by Ellen Blix from Norway and there were short presentations on developing midwifery practice standards and changing maternity policies by delegates from Germany, Switzerland, Malta and Greece.

Mervi Jokinen presented practice issues relating to continuing midwifery education in the EU. She also spoke about the World Health Organization draft document on nursing and midwifery that had been the subject of a technical briefing at the European Committee Meeting in Copenhagen earlier in the month.

The afternoon was devoted to workshops with each delegate able to attend two of the four workshops. Three of the topics focused on the morning presentations: homebirth, midwifery practice standards and changing maternity policies. The fourth considered the available tools for elearning and professional communication. The feedback session ensured that delegates had an overview of how the discussions in each group had progressed.

The day ended with thanks offered to the host association. It was a well organised meeting and was positively evaluated. Next year the AGM will be held in Romania. Mary Higgins is international officer of the INMO Midwives Section

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