Thank you to Sarah Kraft, President of Midwife International, for this guest post.
Even in the 21st century, a woman might still find herself walking alone in the dark left to deliver her baby unassisted on the side of a road.
It is difficult to fathom, and yet it happens frequently. For every 31 mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 will die from a pregnancy-related cause, compared with 1 in every 4,300 mothers in developed regions.
But there is a solution to these horrific realities and statistics–midwives.
A recent study by the United Nations Population Fund found that “across 58 countries, as many as 3.6 million maternal, fetal and newborn deaths per year could be averted if all women had access to the full package of reproductive, maternal and newborn care.” The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees that “investing in health systems—especially in training midwives and in making emergency obstetric care available round-the-clock—is key to reducing maternal mortality.”
Whether working within established maternal health systems to help mothers avoid unnecessary interventions or in remote areas of the world where birth outcomes are poorest, professionally trained midwives are equipped to provide timely, women-centered and holistic care. The evidence is undeniable: where midwives are present we see a significant improvement in maternal and infant health, which has a significant impact on quality of life for the entire family and the community.
In response, Midwife International is launching a 1-year program for student midwives who are committed to improving maternal healthcare in underserved regions. The program, which kicks-off in 2013, is now accepting applications and is open to students who are already on their path to become a Certified Professional Midwife or Nurse-Midwife, as well as those who are exploring the option of becoming a midwife, and want to include international experience as part of their training.
“We do more than just train midwives. It’s kind of like a Peace Corps for maternal health. Our intention is to foster a generation of global leaders who are equipped to address this crisis—which is a complex crisis indeed,” said Sarah Kraft, Co-Founder and President of Midwife International.
Midwife International’s curriculum follows the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) recommendations and is being designed through a collaborative effort among international midwifery experts, including Deborah Flowers who currently teaches at the Farm Midwifery School and Elizabeth Davis, Founder of the National Midwifery Institute. The curriculum will encompass leadership and community service in addition to the Midwives Model of Care.
In 2013, Midwife International students will be placed at independently run birth clinics in 6 countries, based on their skill level – Haiti, Uganda, and Cambodia, Guatemala, Jamaica and Kenya – with plans to expand in future years. No other midwifery-training program emphasizes shared resources and knowledge across international and cultural boundaries, fusing remote clinics as a conduit for innovation in maternal healthcare.
Partnering organization Mother Health International manages five of the six clinical sites currently on the Midwife International roster. “They have a great track-record and have been a tremendous asset in our development,” said Ms. Kraft.
“What’s wild is that we haven’t even deployed our first cohort of students, and we are already getting requests from birth centers in other countries that want to join our network. Over the course of their studies, students provide much-needed support to these centers and surrounding communities. We see huge potential here.”.
Upon completion of the program, some Midwife International students may continue to work abroad and others may return home to continue their studies or open a private practice. Regardless, they will have an advantage over other student midwives. “Our participants will benefit from an exchange with midwifery experts and health workers from around the world and with students from a variety of backgrounds; they will be part of a global network of peers,” said Ms. Kraft.
Most importantly, “they will have pushed up against their own personal limits, stepping out of their comfort zone and experiencing midwifery in high-risk settings where their skills are truly put to the test. Now that’s the kind of midwife I want overseeing my birth,” explained Ms. Kraft who is currently 5-months pregnant and planning a home birth with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) in Boulder, Colorado.
All mothers and infants deserve timely access to skilled healthcare. “Ensuring that every woman and her newborn have access to quality midwifery services demands that we take bold steps to build on what we have achieved so far across communities, countries, regions and the world,” said Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations in an opening letter for the State of the World Midwifery Report.
The Midwife International program is a step in the right direction.
How can you help? Show your support for mothers and midwives by spreading the word about the Midwife International program. Or, consider becoming a midwife yourself. Visit www.midwifeinternational.org for more information.
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.