More than 5,500 people are now recognized as “advanced midwives” able to oversee women in labor without the assistance of doctors. It is hoped they will help to make up for the shortage of obstetricians.
In December, the nonprofit organization Japan Institute of Midwifery Evaluation granted the qualification to 5,562 midwives, the first to evaluate a midwife’s ability and experience under a unified criteria. They are certified able to assist childbirth with mothers who had no prenatal problems.
The Japanese Nursing Association and other medical groups have welcomed the move, saying midwives should be empowered to oversee births alone, with the provision that a doctor is called in during an emergency.
The new system is aimed at responding to an increasing number of expecting mothers seeking to deliver their babies only with the help of midwives. It also aims to ease the burden of obstetricians so they can focus on cases where medical treatment is necessary.
Certificates will be valid for five years, which will require midwives to continue training to get recertified.
“I hope they will continue to study and provide secure and safe care for the mother and the baby,” said Toshiko Fukui, an executive at the Japanese Nursing Association.
To qualify, the midwife must have assisted in 100 or more childbirths and 200 prenatal checkups, among other procedures.
Candidates will need to undergo training on the resuscitation of newborns and how to monitor fetuses. They then can enter the screening process and take a written test. The approval of the medical institution they belong to is also necessary.
Those who pass will need to get their work records examined and pass a written test every five years to renew the certificate.
When the NPO started accepting applications from midwives last August, 5,723 of more than 30,000 midwives nationwide applied, exceeding the initial expectation of 2,000.
“Enthusiastic midwives must have been waiting for this opportunity,” said Fukui.