The Safe Motherhood Project
The Safe Motherhood Project is a team of Canadian volunteers and trained Guatemalan midwives who travel annually (since 2003) to rural Guatemala to teach emergency birthing skills to traditional midwives. Each course runs for 5 days. We teach using a hands-on approach, using an illustrated manual (many of the students are illiterate). The course uses explicit pelvic models and realistic dolls to give a practical understanding of various birthing situations and newborn resuscitation. Women practice individually and as groups. We discuss issues of reproductive health and family planning. At the end of the course each traditional midwife receives a kit of birthing supplies and a diploma, representing for many the first recognition of any education in their lives. The course has been very well received and each year there have been more and more communities requesting the course. So far, we have gone to over 15 villages to teach.
Why this Project is Important
High maternal mortality is a concern for the Mayan women of Guatemala. Hemorrhage, high blood pressure and eclampsia, and infection are the major causes of death of women in childbirth. Seventy percent of Mayan women give birth at home under the care of a traditional midwife, who in many cases has had no formal education or training. In these rural highlands, the closest hospital is often several hours away. Evidence shows that outcomes for pregnant women are better if they are assisted by skilled attendants during childbirth. This is why the course we offer is vital to helping decrease the number of maternal deaths in rural Guatemala.
Our vision is to continue with the training of traditional midwives, as well as to further train others to teach our course. This course not only teaches skills but also empowers marginalized women. We work with public health clinics and hospitals to enhance communication between health care professionals and traditional midwives, with very positive results. Our project is supported by local government.