Author: Esther Sharma

Mumbai Midwifery: An Interview with Lina Duncan

Originally posted on Maternal Matters. Maternal Matters is so excited to feature British midwife and global citizen, Lina Duncan, who set up Mumbai Midwife – Justlink Health Services India Pvt Ltd, a private midwifery practice, in India. Thanks Lina for taking the time to be interviewed for Maternal Month – this will be insightful and inspiring for many!     1. Why and where did you train to be a midwife? I “stumbled” into a school in El Paso, Texas whilst on travels, with blue hair and no set future plan. I joined the Primary Health Care course for third world settings, and towards the end, I decided to not jump into the next segment of the school and train as a midwife, would be like walking out of a five star restaurant after the appetiser! 2. What are you most passionate about as a midwife? That’s easy – dignity and respect. I have learnt something at every birth I attended and the more I learn, the more I realise the importance of keeping things …

Midwives Matter. But will SDG’s deliver?

Fact: Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  This accounts to 289,000 women per year. Fact: Every year 3 million infants die in the first month of life. Among those, nearly 3/4 die in their first week, and 1/3 die on their day of birth. Fact:  Midwives that are educated and regulated to international standards can provide 87% of the essential care needed for women and newborns. Fact: Today, only 22% of countries have potentially enough adequately educated midwives to meet the basic needs of the world’s women and newborns. Yesterday was the International Day of the Midwife.  The theme for this year is “Midwives: for a better tomorrow.” It reminds us of the critical role of midwives in creating a brighter future for mothers, babies, and families.  Continued progress and sustainable development will not be a reality unless mothers and babies survive and thrive.  Investment in midwives is fundamental in accelerating progress toward these goals. -Frances Ganges, Chief Executive International Confederation of Midwives We are only months away …

Breastfeeding is a World Health Day Issue

Yesterday was World Health Day – a World Health Organization (WHO) campaign with a focus, this year, on global food safety.  This year, much of the attention is being given to looking at how food safety is affected ‘from farm to plate.’ The WHO feature 10 facts on food safety: More than 200 diseases are spread through food Contaminated food can cause long-term health problems Foodbourne diseases affect vulnerable people harder than other groups There are many opportunities for food contamination to take place Globilization makes food safety more complex and essential Food safety is multisectoral and multidisciplinary Food contamination also affects the economy and society as a whole Some harmful bacteria are becoming resistant to drug treatment Everybody has a role to play in keeping food safe Consumers must be well informed on food safety practices As a midwife, my first thought on reading this list, thinking particularly about the third point about food safety issues for vulnerable people, turned to food safety for newborns and infants.  The WHO says that ” the great …

Giving Midwives the Respect they Deserve

Midwifery is one of the world’s oldest professions and midwives have been ‘with woman’ (the literal translation for the word ‘midwife’) for thousands of generations. The work of skilled midwives is invaluable in ensuring the wellbeing of expectant mothers, new mothers and their newborns. Throughout the years, midwifery as a profession has been subject to a plethora of misunderstandings, some as extreme as equating midwives with witchcraft. Even in the present day, at best, the role of the midwife is often misconceived as being simply about assisting births. Midwives around the world are undervalued. In the United States, laws prevent midwives from providing the full scope of care for which they are qualified. In the United Kingdom, midwives have recently been striking to get the pay increase they deserve. In parts of Asia, anecdotal evidence suggests that midwives are either wannabe doctors that failed to make the grade for medical school or poorly educated women who are unable to find any better work. In this year’s State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) report, it was highlighted that …

Midwives are the cornerstone to MDG 4 & 5 success

The countdown is on: we have less than 500 days to meet Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5, focused on improving child and maternal health. Sustained and focused efforts have resulted in impressive improvements in many countries. However, there is still a long way to go, and despite overall global reductions in child (under 5) mortality rates, infant mortality rates have actually risen. Midwives are fundamental in meeting these two MDG’s. It is not difficult to see how midwives are critical to improving MDG 5 with its related indicators pertaining to: • maternal mortality ratios • proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel • the contraceptive prevalence rate • the adolescent birth rate • antenatal care coverage • the unmet need for family planning It is estimated that a universal increase in midwifery (including family planning) in 78 of the world’s most resource-poor countries could result in up to 83% fewer maternal, fetal and newborn deaths. Family planning (easy access to contraceptives) allows women to choose when to start having children, as well …

#WBW2014: Early First Breastfeed Makes All The Difference.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week – a celebration, as well as an opportunity to continue to push forward the protecting, promoting and supporting of breastfeeding. The health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for mother and baby are well documented, not to mention the convenience and cost advantages. Early initiation of breastfeeding (defined as the provision of breast milk to a baby within one hour of birth) plays an important role in the establishment of breastfeeding, with far reaching additional consequences. A recent study completed by Alive and Thrive shows the following benefits to early breastfeeding: In low-resource, high mortality settings where infection causes a large proportion of newborn deaths, early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding can substantially reduce child mortality. Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour can help prevent neonatal deaths caused by sepsis, pneumonia, and diarrhea and may also prevent hypothermia-related deaths, especially in preterm and low birthweight infants. Early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding serves as the starting point for a continuum of care for mother and newborn that can have long-lasting effects on health and development. …

World Population Day 2014: investing in young people

Every year since 1989, communities around the world mark 11 July as World Population Day, which brings to attention global population issues in the context of development plans and programmes. We now live in a world of a whopping 7 million people (and growing), with a staggering 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, increasing demands on access to basic rights including education and healthcare. This year’s theme for World Population Day is “Investing in Young People” and communities and organizations around the world will be committing today to empowering young people in order to improve their sexual and reproductive rights. “On this World Population Day, I call on all with influence to prioritize youth in development plans, strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations, and involve young people in all decisions that affect them. By empowering today’s youth, we will lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future for generations to come” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Message for World Population Day Young people aged 10 to 24 make up 30% of the population with even higher …

Newborn survival: the Every Newborn Action Plan

Almost a year ago, I held my beautiful baby boy in my arms for the very first time. I was captivated and mesmerized by his wrinkled skin, his bright eyes and his innate ability to feed from me, taking in all the nourishment he needed in those early hours. As the days and weeks went by, I watched him grow, become more alert and attentive and attempt his first smile. Nothing could have prepared me for this unbelievably wonderful experience. But, having travelled to, and worked in, some of the poorest countries in the world, there has not been one moment that I have taken the precious life of my baby for granted. I am among the privileged of the world; able to enjoy him free from the worry of death lurking just around the corner. Newborn deaths now account for at least 44% of deaths among children under the age of five globally, resulting in 2.9 million lives lost each year. Another 2.6 million babies die in the last 3 months of pregnancy or during …

Birthing in Afghanistan: State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 report

Last week, I wrote a post suggesting that the lives of mothers and babies in Afghanistan are showing signs of improvement. That was prior to the launch of the second State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) report at the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) 30th Triennial Congress. The report, coordinated by UNFPA, ICM and WHO but involving stakeholders from around the world, is a response to Millennium Development Goal 5 and provides an evidence base for the state of midwifery in 73 low- and middle-income countries. Included in the report is a two-page country profile for each of the 73 ‘Countdown to 2015’ countries included in the report. The country profiles are data rich – the first half deals with ‘where are we now?’ and the second half looks at ‘what might 2030 look like?’. Based on the available data, the report shows that:- the maternal and newborn health workforce is able to meet 23% of the need in Afghanistan this could decline to a shocking 8% by 2030 if the status quo remains even …

Birthing in Afghanistan: Glimmers of hope

When I visited Gulpari,* I found her sitting in the corner of a room. Given the hot summer weather outside, the room was surprisingly dark and damp. On the other side of the room, her 18-month old daughter lies asleep on the floor, covered with flies, with only a thin sheet separating them from her small face and body. Her two older daughters run around semi-naked in the small courtyard outside. Next to Gulpari, a tightly swaddled newborn baby girl lies quietly in a crudely made cradle. In a country where boys are prized, having another girl does not bode well for this Afghan mother. Gulpari once gave birth to a baby boy. She recalls how his head got stuck after his body was born and when his head finally came out hours later, he was stillborn. Since then, Gulpari and a few of her local friends have attended a safe childbirth course. The course gives poor, uneducated women some basic self-help measures for pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period and trigger points for referral …