There are more than 50,000 accredited midwives in Taiwan, but they deliver less than 0.05 percent of the babies born each year, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Taiwan Midwives Association director-general Gao Mei-ling (高美玲) said midwifery has virtually vanished since midwife education programs were suspended in 1991 when the number of physicians rose high enough for hospitals to stop staffing midwives in their obstetrics and gynecology departments.
Gao made the remarks at a conference on diversity in birthing practices and delivery environments friendly to mothers and babies held by the association last weekend.
Association executive director Kuo Su-chen (郭素貞) said that since now, the number of obstetricians is falling and consciousness about women’s issues is rising, more expectant mothers are opting for natural delivery methods that minimize medical intervention.
Many developed countries are seeing a rise in the number of newborns delivered by certified midwives, Kuo said.
She said that labor is a natural process and that the nation’s Midwifery Act (助產人員法) authorizes midwives to deliver babies, administer prenatal and postnatal checks, and dispense advice to pregnant women and new mothers.
In a lot of European countries, midwifery-led pregnancy, birth and postpartum care for low-risk pregnancies is becoming more common, Kuo said.
Deputy Minister of Health Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said that less than 0.05 percent of babies born nationwide between 2008 and 2012 were delivered by midwives, indicating that obstetricians are still the mainstay in the field.
There are 53,928 certified midwives in the nation, 90 percent of whom are also accredited nurses, Lin said.
He added that the Executive Yuan has just approved a one-year pilot project during which hospitals will test out a co-care system involving obstetricians and midwives.