From Iceland — Historic Low In Midwives All Over Iceland

Historic Low In Midwives All Over Iceland

Published July 6, 2021

Alina Maurer
Photo by
Beth/Wikimedia Commons

Just as the birth rate spikes by approximately 30%, a historic shortage of midwives dampens the delightful news.

According to the chairman of the Icelandic Midwifery Association, maternity care is heading into an emergency state, as there is an all-time low in midwives in Iceland right now.

Quarantine babies expected in the summer

The quarantine period has probably led to an increase in births this year, as births are expected to increase by up to 30 percent.
Unnur Berglind Friðriksdóttir, chairman of the Icelandic Midwifery Association, told RÚV that the situation is similar in all of Iceland. “It has often been difficult, but this summer it is a terrible situation. There is always a shortage during the summer, but what is added now is so much pressure: a 25-30% increase in births is forecast this summer. And not only do we welcome the babies, but we also do maternity work and so much more. And we also need midwives to do the home visits.”

Unnur says that information also indicates an increase in births in the autumn. In September a 17-20% increase is expected from last year. The Icelandic Midwifery Association sent a memorandum to the Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, about the emergency in maternity care this summer.

Subsequently, Unnur met with the Minister, where she proposed, among other things, that a midwife union is formed, that wages for in-home maternity care be raised temporarily and that the workload is paid for. She says that nothing came out of that meeting, as far as she knows. “I hope something is done behind the scenes that I do not know about, but I have not heard anything being done to try to improve things.”

Not only a problem of the capital area

Midwives—or in Icelandic “ljósmóðir, literally meaning “light mother”—are scarce all over the country. “I know the situation in the north is very bad. Akranes was about to close but midwives fought against it and wanted to keep it open. It is difficult all over the country.”

Unnur says the situation is quite serious, “I’m very worried about midwives. They take care of women and women receive maternal services. But it is up to midwives and I expect some of them to give up after the summer.“

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