Innovations For Traditional Midwives
The Mother Health International model responds to the ‘Three Delays” that contribute to high perinatal mortality rates.
All of our Impact Projects are organized around removing barriers that lead to these delays, alongside the framework of the midwifery model of care that places women and their needs at the center of all community healthcare.
Why Traditional Midwives?
The UNFPA estimates that 80% of babies are born into the hands of traditional midwives in rural areas around the world. This makes them critical health care providers and crucial to improving outcomes.
Traditional Midwives practice midwifery as it has been handed down to them from generation to generation. Replaced over several years with a biomedical approach to childbirth, traditional midwifery has almost been eradicated worldwide.
MHI is committed to preserving the knowledge of Traditional Midwives and valuing their roles as culturally specific providers. Our collective of 60 Traditional Midwives have been meeting every Saturday for 13 years.
They work hand-in-hand with nurse-midwives and doctors at our centers of care. We have collectively developed innovations that are aimed at improving Traditional Midwives ability to serve their communities.
Mother Health International developed The Heart String, a color-coded bracelet that allows health attendants, who cannot read, write or count, to monitor fetal heart tones in pregnant women. Birth attendants listen to the fetal heartbeat and press a bead each time they hear a ‘beat’- after fifteen seconds, the attendant looks at where she has landed on the bracelet.
If she is in the white section, the FHT is too low. The Green, the FHT is in a range of normal. The Red, the FHT is too high. Knowing if a baby is in distress allows birth attendants to make informed decisions about labor management and appropriate/timely transport.
Internationally accepted best practices such as monitoring fetal heart rates throughout pregnancy and delivery can make the difference between an infant who lives and an infant who dies, a mother who makes it to the hospital in time and a mother who does not.
The Heart Strings cost about $3 to manufacture and are based on traditional methods of counting the days of the moon on a string to determine fertility.
Because of this, they are easily understood and accepted by traditional midwives. Additionally, they can be worn on the arm at all times, so traveling attendants will always have the tool with them. The Heart String is a sustainable and life-saving tool that is culturally appropriate to the regions that it serves.
Our Heart Strings are now sourced as ‘kits’ with sand timers and Pinard Horns
Many Traditional Midwives cannot read or write. Using traditional methods for learning and passing on knowledge, MHI has developed a set of clinical protocols that is written entirely in song and dance. These protocols are for collaborative care and describe prevention and early detection as well as active management for emergencies.
Make an Impact
In thirteen years of service, MHI has scaled in Atiak sub-county, providing full-spectrum reproductive healthcare to 90% of the women in the region and turning perinatal mortality rates upside down.
While the neonatal mortality rate is 54/1000 births in Northern Uganda, it has consistently been 11/1000 at the MHI birth center in Atiak.
In close to 20,000 deliveries MHI has never lost a mother.