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Maternity services in China and professional identity of the midwife

02 June 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 6


Maternity services in China are highly medicalised and government policy for obstetric-led hospital care has resulted in marginalisation of the midwife's role. The broader historical, political and cultural context of Chinese society has also influenced how midwifery care is provided. By focusing on the professional identity of midwives, this article explores factors that impact on how midwives in China practice in comparison to midwives in the UK. The article concludes that midwives in China face significant challenges and are not adequately enabled to provide care from conception through to the end of the postnatal period. By comparing midwifery practice between the two countries, is it suggested that there are seven key factors that appear to promote and contribute to a strong professional identity. It is important to note that this is a personal view based on observation and reflection.

Last November, the author of this article had the opportunity to participate in a professional tour looking at midwifery services in China, enabled by a scholarship from the Florence Nightingale Foundation. The role of the midwife in China is very different to the UK; this article will share some individual reflections on factors that have shaped the professional identity of midwives and the differences between both countries. While this scholarship offered the opportunity to visit several different maternity hospitals, inevitably these conclusions are drawn from a brief glimpse of maternity care in a rapidly changing society.

With a population of 1.3 billion (Worldometers, 2017) China is the third-largest country in the world, and its rapid social and economic modernisation is manifesting itself through the adoption of Western, predominantly North American, norms. The use of technology in healthcare is seen as progressive and desirable. Medical interventions in childbirth, such as elective caesarean sections, are commonplace; China has one of the highest rates of intervention without indication in Asia (Wang et al, 2012).

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