Maternal and Child Health

Speaking to Nigeria’s Midwives

Globally 290,000 women and 3 million children die each year due to preventable causes relating to pregnancy and childbirth. In the recent State of the World’s Mothers Report, Nigeria was listed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to have a baby.

The solution to solving maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria is investing in midwives!

The midwives in Nigeria are working hard to save the lives of Nigerian mothers. I recently visited George’s Memorial Medical Centre in Lagos, a clinic that focuses primarily on maternal and newborn health.

Ebonolu Olukemi Dele-Isawumi

Ebunolu Olukemi Dele-Isawumi: RN, RM, PHN

Ebunolu is a midwife at George’s Memorial Medical Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. She qualified in 1993 and has been a midwife for 22 years.

Why do midwives matter?

Midwives are important because like the name implies, they stand between the woman and the unborn child to ensure that the child is delivered safely and the woman does not get any injuries in the process. Midwives monitor the woman before conception, during pregnancy and postpartum. Midwives can also educate the local people about the harmful effects of processes like child marriage, because this leads to maternal mortality as a child’s pelvis is not yet ready for birth. Apart from maternal mortality, child marriage and early pregnancy can even lead to obstetric complications like fistula which means that young girls suffer from incontinence. We can educate women about family planning and spacing their children. I think it’s important that women should have babies at their will, not because they couldn’t delay conception.

What do you think we can do to reduce these high rates?

The solutions to solving these issues are midwives. Midwives are important, there is a deficit and we need more hands on deck! Midwives need to be better paid and better valued in society. When you tell people you’re a midwife, people don’t care and they should care because we take care of Nigeria’s mothers and babies! Nigeria has a serious and dangerous shortage of midwives. With enough midwives, we can capture problems quickly and prevent so many deaths. In the swampy River Rhine areas of Lagos, there are few facilities. Pregnant women in labour can be carried on a person’s back or in a boat to get them to the nearest facility.

Queenette Nwanekezie

Mrs. Queentte Nwanekezie: RN, RM BSc in Health Education and Administration

Queenette is the Head of Nursing and Midwifery at George’s Memorial Medical Centre. She qualified in 1994 and has been a midwife for 20 years.

Why do midwives matter?

Midwives are extremely important, they take care of the world’s mothers! Midwives are important before, during and after pregnancy. They are important with subjects like women’s health, conception, pregnancy, birth and family planning. Midwives have first-line contact with expectant or non-expectant mothers in dispensing information about contraception, discussing the different types and helping the woman to choose the best form of contraception for her. Midwives build relationships with women, which is of the utmost importance.

Why do you think Nigeria has such high maternal and newborn deaths?

Child marriage means girls aren’t physically ready to have babies. Cultural beliefs about using midwives and vaccinating babies also lead to high maternal and newborn deaths. Some women prefer to use traditional birth attendants, who are not skilled. Even when there are health care facilities available, the lack of education means that women might still opt to not use them. Of course, other factors like poor transport and poverty mean some women either have their babies at home without a skilled health worker or only see a midwife at delivery.

What do you think we can do to reduce these high rates?

We need equity in the distribution of medical infrastructures. We also need to make maternity services more accessible. Investing in midwives, educating the local people about the benefits and government support is essential. If you’re going to war, you need a gun. If you’re going to save lives, you also need to be equipped too. We also need to create a forum for midwives to share experiences, and we need to provide more courses for midwives to sharpen the skills they have, and to learn new skills. Nobody wants to hear a midwife, but midwives should be heard because our voices matter.

Midwives are extremely important. When mothers and newborns are healthy, this has a massive impact on the community. Healthy mothers and healthy newborns can break the cycle of poverty and change the status quo for women and girls. Gender inequality will persist if the needs of mothers and babies are not made a priority. Midwives are the key to unlocking the potential of mothers and newborns.

Midwives are special, they save lives in a way that no superhero can. No mother should die in childbirth, and no baby should be born only to die. Having access to maternity care shouldn’t be a lottery depending on where you live. Midwives matter to me, to you, to mothers and newborns and to whole communities across the globe. The world needs more midwives and now is the time to act. When we stand up for midwives, we stand up for mothers and newborns around the world. Let’s stand up for the people who take care of the world’s mothers and newborns. Let’s stand up for midwives!

Quote of the day, 1 June 2014. #ICMLive

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Category: Health    Maternal and Child Health
Tagged with: #ICMLive    #SOWMY2014    George's Memorial Medical Centre    infant mortality    Maternal Health    Maternal Mortality    Midwives    Newborn Health    Nigerian Midwives

June Eric-Udorie

June Eric-Udorie is an anti-FGM campaigner and activist working with Plan UK and Integrate Bristol. She has written articles for newspapers and magazines in the UK on, but not exclusively on, feminism and women's rights. She tweets at @juneericudorie

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