Posts Tagged "Helping Babies Breathe"

There is hope…

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Writings

There is hope…

Two weeks ago I came back home to South Africa after a full and busy tour of teaching and presenting in various countries in Europe. I don’t think I quite realised what I had signed myself up for when I said yes to all the commitments I had made but for three weeks I ended up either teaching or travelling every single day. This was my itinerary: 14-15 May, Additional Skills and Information Session Weekend for Doulas at DO-UM in Istanbul, Turkey 17-18 May, Helping Babies Breathe and other obstetric emergencies for home birth at Da a Luz, in the Alpujarras, Spain 20-24 May, An Introductory Course to Midwifery at Vale dos Homens, Portugal 26-31 May, book launch of Italian translation of my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, in Rome and various towns on the island of Sardinia. I flew to Istanbul mid May to teach doulas and student doulas at DO-UM, a space run by Nur (the first ever doula in Turkey) and Sima. These two doulas are pioneering and bearing the torch of birth through education and birth attendance in Turkey. Turkey has a rising caesarian rate which matches our own here in the private sector in South Africa. The majority of births are attended by doctors and most end in caesarans. But DO-UM and other places are trying to shift this by offering doula courses, as well as childbirth classes for expectant couples. Then I went on to Spain where I spent two days teaching the last workshop of Da a Luz Midwifery School’s second year in operation. The school, is the vision and idea of Vanessa Brooks, a British home birth midwife residing in Spain. It is still a work in progress but what I have seen in visiting the place twice  in the last two years, is that it is coming together very nicely, and growing as a course which supports women in choosing the path to true midwifery. Students sign up for a year’s apprenticeship and have the added challenge of having to provide completely for themselves in terms of accommodation (living in tents, vans, yurts, caravans, and one student even building herself a little cob hut), living off the grid and living communally. The school building, is slowly being built and has gone from being a pile of stones to taking on a majestic presence of its own. I look forward to seeing it when it is done but for now, classes still take place mainly outdoors, on rugs, on the grass, under the olive tree. I am very inspired by what Vanessa is doing at Da a Luz because we all know that there is something lacking in midwifery training nowadays, and that is often a lack of trust of the birthing process. Da a Luz aims to instil a sense of confidence and faith in birth. Last year I taught the Helping Babies Breathe course to a group of doulas in Portugal. After that course, there were numerous requests to build on that and for me to provide a longer, more detailed course, exploring some of the skills of midwifery. Hence,An Introductory Course to Midwifery  was born. At the beautiful venue at Vale dos Homens we spent five days discussing, exploring and mostly laughing our way through basic midwifery skills, sharing birth stories and discussing what birth and midwifery meant to us. You can see more pictures from the course on the True Midwifery FaceBook page. After the course in Portugal I had to catch a plane to Rome where the Italian translation of my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman...

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Advanced Doula Workshop in Portugal

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Writings

Advanced Doula Workshop in Portugal

Alex and I connected for the first time around nine years ago and the reason we connected was around birth and midwifery. We are not quite sure where and when it was that we first heard of one another but I do remember hearing via various whispered sources about this brave young French woman who was living very simply on a very isolated farm in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and who had chosen to give give birth unassisted to her first baby. (You can read the story of Alex’s second birth, also a free birth, outdoors in the Eastern Cape, here). Alex and I first chatted online. I was pregnant with my third child. We discussed our births and shared our dreams of one day becoming midwives. Alex was the first person to ever tell me about Lotus Birth and highly recommended I try this for my next birth. I imagined birthing in a room filled with scented flowers, visualising myself opening like a flower for the sun to birth my baby. I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed to find out that all a Lotus Birth required was not cutting the cord of the baby and waiting the 5-7 days for the cord to naturally fall off. Alex, along with her husband Yan, and their good friend Ole, pioneered the intentional community Khula Dhamma, initially founded on Vipassana principles. Over the years, our families met regularly, both in Cape Town and at Khula Dhamma and needless to say, Alex and my conversation would steer towards birth and midwifery. We shared our stories and experiences and  always, we strongly resonated regarding birth and our implicit trust in women’s abilities to unlock (when given the opportunity) something deep and powerful within themselves. Four years ago, Alex and her family left South Africa and lived in Brazil for two years before finally settling in Portugal. Alex has been inviting me to come and visit for a long time and when she heard I was going to teach in Spain she invited me to come and teach some of the doulas in her area too. So after my ten-day teaching stint at De-a-luz in Spain, I traveled on three busses to the Algarve in Portugal. So this last weekend, doulas from Portugal came and we discussed mostly our experience of birth(amazing how birth-y people never seem to tire of this subject!), spoke about creating the optimal environment for a a fetus ejection reflex and physiological birth, and learned some skills around resuscitating babies as well as some basic but essential obstetric emergency skills. The question was asked as to why these would be skills a doula should learn since a doula’s role is to provide non-medical support to the mother. The answer is quite simple: The World Health Organisation states that one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia (an inability to breathe at birth) and recommends that every birth have an attendant skilled in neonatal resuscitation. If you are attending births regularly, you may find yourself in a situation where a baby is not breathing, or where a mother is bleeding more than usual, or has a prolapsed cord…You may be alone with her, or you may be at a home birth with a midwife, or driving in a car, or even be in a hospital. You may be the only one who can deal with that situation right then and there before the mother and baby can be transported to hospital, or you may need to assist, or you may just need to support a mother and her family during...

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Helping Babies Breathe

Posted by on Feb 22, 2015 in Writings

Helping Babies Breathe

Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) is an  initiative of the American Academy of Paediatrics and the World Health Organisation. It is a programme that has been implemented to ensure that every birth attendant is skilled in the basics of neonatal resuscitation as part of one of the five 2015 Millennium Goals (to reduce infant mortality). Apparently, in Countries where this programme has been implemented, governments have found a decrease of up to 25% in neonatal deaths. Helping Babies Breathe is a neonatal resuscitation curriculum for resource-limited circumstances. It was developed on the premise that assessment at birth and simple newborn care are things that every baby deserves. The initial steps taught in HBB can save lives and give a much better start to many babies who struggle to breathe at birth. The focus is to meet the needs of every baby born. Helping Babies Breathe emphasises skilled attendants at birth, assessment of every baby, skin to skin contact with mother, delayed cord clamping, temperature support, stimulation to breathe, and assisted ventilation as needed, all within “The Golden Minute” after birth. Midwife Marianne Littlejohn and myself are trained as teachers and trainers of HBB and volunteer for Operation Smile and have thus far taught midwives, doctors, NICU staff, nurses, doulas, birth attendants, mothers, fathers, and interested people these basic but life saving skills. We have been privileged to teach all over South Africa, as well as in Malawi and Kenya. Plans are also afoot for us to teach in the DRC and Lesotho, as well as continuing to teach in South Africa. This last week I taught the skills to a group of peers, WOMBS doulas and CPM Mandi Busson at friend and colleague Lana Petersen‘s home. I must admit to feeling slightly intimidated, teaching friends and colleagues but this fell away very quickly as stories were shared and we acted out various scenarios from precipitous unplanned home births to water births. What I love about the HBB programme is its emphasis on normal birth – that it reiterates that approximately 90% of all births are straightforward and that it teaches as its introduction how to facilitate that: Skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding, etc and that even when a baby needs help to breathe, that every step is take to ensure that that mother and baby bond and cycle is not broken. Here are some pictures from this week’s course. We had so much fun acting out the various scenarios that plans are afoot for some fun birth theatre sports, possibly to be presented at this year’s Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference. If you would like to host or attend a Helping Babies Breathe course, please contact...

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Meeting a Traditional Midwife in Malawi

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Writings

Meeting a Traditional Midwife in Malawi

Marianne Littlejohn and I volunteer for Operation Smile by teaching the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) programme. In June of 2014 we were flown to Malawi to teach at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe . Over five days we taught approximately 40 people each. Malawi is an amazing country. It is incredibly poor but we were really pleasantly surprised by the hospitality and kindness and receptiveness of everyone we met. What I love about the HBB programme is its focus on normal birth, its simplicity and its adaptability to whatever environment it is presented in. We have so far taught in high tech hospitals, to home birth midwives, low resourced settings, to doulas and mothers. Each course is different because it works with the experiences and environments the people being taught bring to the workshops. Kamuzu Central Hospital is a reasonably well equipped hospital with sensitive and compassionate midwives. Some of the people we taught were very experienced midwives, doctors and paediatric nurses with many years of experience with very compromised babies. There was interesting discussion and sharing of stories and knowledge – we definitely learned a lot from the people who attended these workshops. One of the women we taught, Violet, a highly experienced midwife, told us about the work she used to do providing training and education and equipment to Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in her region. TBA is the term used to describe traditional or lay midwives who have no ‘officially’ recognised training. Usually they have learned their skills from other traditional midwives. It is a controversial title as it takes away the centuries old title of ‘midwife’ from those women who have always attended pregnant and labouring women and who often carry skills and knowledge passed down through generations. Violet told us about a TBA living in a village not far from Lilongwe and offered to take us to meet her if we could organise the transport. The following day we organised a car and a driver and were driven about 45 minutes outside of Lilongwe over dusty and bumpy clay coloured roads, past simple handmade clay brick homes and thorn trees and goats and women wearing colourful cloth skirts. Along the way, Violet told us that TBAs had been the backbone of maternal care for a very long time in Malawi. She told us that the Malawian government had trained many TBAs in basic midwifery skills to provide care for pregnant and labouring women. The government had also provided updates and further education every month to the TBAs to ensure their skills were kept up to date. The government had also provided the TBAs with equipment and medications. It had been Violet’s job to provide these updates and education to ensure that the TBAs were following best practice when caring for pregnant and labouring women. Violet’s duties had also been to ensure that the TBAs were stocked with the medicines and equipment they needed. She had enjoyed this work. She had enjoyed the travelling and admired the TBAs she was responsible for. Two years previously, in a drive to encourage women to seek care from hospitals, the Malawian government had banned TBAs. This had not really changed the birth statistics in the hospitals, Violet said, all it had done was driven the TBAs underground and yet most rural women still sought care from the TBAs they knew and had grown up with, and who had probably attended their mothers when they themselves were born. Lack of transport to the hospitals made it difficult for mothers to get to the hospitals even if they wanted to. The government...

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