Nancy’s Birth Story: taking charge of your experience

In this episode we hear from Nancy. Despite more interventions than she wished for, giving birth was ultimately an empowering experience for her. It’s wonderful to hear her talk about her Baby Shower, where she gathered the women in her family and asked them to share their birth wisdom to help her prepare. Women’s stories are incredibly powerful!

The Positive Birth Story Podcast features empowering & positive stories about birth. Swedish midwife Åsa Holstein shares her in-depth knowledge of birth and speaks to brave women who share their personal stories. This is a podcast with women, for women about the super power that resides in all of us.

Find all episodes of The Positive Birth Story Podcast here.

Mariah’s Birth Story: trusting your intuition

Mariah shares the beautiful story of her son’s birth in the latest episode of The Positive Birth Story Podcast. Dancing and moving helped Mariah to listen to her body and give birth surrounded by love and joy.

“Intuition is easily ignored. We live in a really busy world, it’s hard to slow down and listen to what your heart really wants.”

The Positive Birth Story Podcast features empowering & positive stories about birth. Swedish midwife Åsa Holstein shares her in-depth knowledge of birth and speaks to brave women who share their personal stories. This is a podcast with women, for women about the super power that resides in all of us.

Listen to more episodes here.

The Power of Female Health Workers

Women make up more than 70 percent of the health workforce. Despite the fact that they play a critical role in improving and saving the lives of people around the world, female health workers are often unrecognized, underpaid or unpaid. These  facts were presented by Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health, at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference at a side event co-hosted by Johnson & Johnson. She continued sharing that female health workers face further barriers with discrimination, threats and harassment in their daily lives.

“Workplace violence and sexual harassment in the health and social sector are widespread – from colleagues, patients and community members” said Roopa Dhatt. 

During the event the voices of midwives and nurses were listened to and appreciated. Girls’ Globe had the opportunity to hear more from three of the speakers about why they are proud to be midwives and what we all need to know about the midwifery profession.

Stéphanie Roche, Haiti

“What I am proud of, as much as being a female health worker and a midwife, is the service that we are offering to our society and community. We serve the lives of women of our community. What makes us proud is that we accompany women in their difficult times. We know that there is a problem of accessibility, especially in Haiti. We are proud because we are there to offer women whatever is necessary. Without midwives, the majority of our women are not really safe. The midwife is there to keep women safe and to help them. And we are proud of that.”

Ms. Roche is a Nurse Midwife and Head of the Maternity Unit at Marigot Health Center in Haiti. Female health workers like midwife Stéphanie Roche contributes to improving maternal and newborn health in Haiti – a country in with a maternal mortality
rate which is among the highest in the world.

Stéphanie Roche believes that the midwifery profession is unique. “To see a woman give life and help her do it is something extraordinary,” she said. “What I like most is having the opportunity to educate women, to talk to them, to teach them things that can lead to a change in behavior.”

Ruth Dite Mah Diassana, Mali

“As a midwife, I am proud to accompany pregnant women throughout their lives, and through delivering a baby to the world. I want the world to recognize the marvelous and powerful work of midwives.”

Ruth is a Midwife in charge of the Reproductive Health Service at night and also Manager of the Family Planning Department at Sikasso Reference Health Center in Mali. She has experience working as a midwife for Malian Ministry of Health in 2013.

“We are working with the government to give equal opportunities who are working in health to have adequate training to grow in the health workforce,” she explained. 

Ruth has been trained by the Born On Time project as trainer in Lifestyle, Infection, Nutrition, Contraception (LINC) approach on preventing preterm birth and on gender equality as well as on Kangaroo Mother Care, newborn care and sexual and reproductive health and rights. She has gone on to train midwives, obstetric nurses, matrons and community health workers.

Elizabeth Brandeis, Canada

“What makes me most proud about being a midwife is being able to support my clients in making the right choices for themselves and their bodies. Midwives are leaders in reproductive health care. They have the skills and competencies to have responsibility for the majority of births that happen in the world. Medicine could really have a lot to gain in consulting with midwives about normal births.”

Elizabeth is a midwife and senior partner at the Midwives Collective of Toronto. She is the President of the Association of Ontario Midwives. Both her clinical practice and board-level work are dedicated to addressing the needs of underserved populations and to social justice.

At the event, Elizabeth told us about how the Association of Ontario Midwives has taken the government to court as a result of the fight for equal pay. She talked about the linkages between the feminist movement and the status of midwives in Canada.“Still in Canada, the gender pay gap is 30%. For midwives the pay gap is 40% – which is even greater for indigenous midwives,“ she said. 

The event was concluded by Dr. Willibald Zeck, Head of Global Maternal, Newborn and Adolescent Health Program at UNICEF. “It is a very patriarchal system that we live in and women are very supressed! We really need to make a change, and it is great to hear what has happened from Haiti to Canada.”

It is time for real change for female health workers, including those who are midwives and nurses. It is time for female health workers to be appreciated and valued for the life-saving work that they do.


This blog post was created by Girls’ Globe powered by Johnson & Johnson. 

An Ode to the Midwives in My Life

To the midwife who brought my first baby to the world.
Despite the doctor’s miscommunication,
she guided the lioness in me through nature’s vulnerability
the miracle of life brought to me through her hands.

To the midwife in my family, my mentor, my friend.
In my darkest place, nipples sore and breasts ready to explode,
you support me to be myself, to listen to myself.
“Relax, breathe, it is going to be alright”
you always say the words I need to hear.

To the midwife who showed us our first picture of the baby inside,
her heart beating and legs kicking, reacting to the moves I make.
To the midwife who put her steady hands on my shoulder,
guiding me through inhales and exhales.
To the midwife who reassuringly investigated my scars,
creating the safe space needed to speak.

To the midwives who’ve spent hours listening,
my worries, my joys, my expectations, my fears.
Listening to my story.

To the midwives I’ve listened to,
in maternity wards and through podcasts
invaluable words of wisdom.

To the midwife who brought my second baby to the world,
my little one so content.
She kept the room calm, speaking only when necessary,
supporting me with actions through the unbearable.
My blood, my pain, my screams.
She let me lead, when I felt nothing like a leader.
She calmed the quick storm in me,
and gave us space to welcome new life.

To all of the above who’ve helped me become who I am today.
Thank you for being with me – with women everywhere.

Breaking the Taboo: Sex During Pregnancy

Phew, maybe you’re thinking…this girl gets straight to the point! And it’s true, because in this blog I want to talk about sexuality both during pregnancy and afterwards once the baby arrives. I have noticed that sex is kind of an awkward subject for women to talk about during appointments with their midwife. But why is that?

We all know how people get pregnant, so why can’t we talk about it? After all, research shows us that many women experience problems with sex during and after pregnancy.

At the moment I am a first year midwifery student in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. My first year of study is all about the physiology of pregnancy. I believe my studies and future job as a midwife are privileges, and I think that it’s an honour to be a part of such life changing events for women, and to be able to offer them support.

To continue on the subject of sexuality, maybe you’re thinking to yourself – what kind of problems could there be? The most common problems during pregnancy are generally a belly which is in the way, back pain or other pain in the body, feeling unattractive or feeling scared of hurting the baby. After delivery, women can struggle with the healing after a rupture, vaginal dryness, low sex drive and tiredness – because with a newborn baby you’re awake a lot during the night! And sometimes, with so many changes taking place in their bodies, women can feel unattractive or worry that their partners don’t find them as attractive as they did before.

The main message I have for any women who are worried is that it’s okay to have sex during pregnancy! You can try different positions and find what works and feels best for you at different stages of your pregnancy. There are only some specific circumstances when it’s not smart to have sex or an orgasm, for example, if you’re experiencing blood loss or suffer from severe varicose veins. It’s also not a good idea when your water breaks, as it could threaten premature birth, or when the placenta is located before the exit of the uterus.

Finally! Your little baby is there. What happens now? My advice here would be to take the time your body needs to heal! It has just accomplished an incredible thing, and will need to recover. The first time you have sex after giving birth can be exciting. Start carefully, take your time and consider using lubricant to make things easier.

Of course, if you experience regular or intense pain during sex at any point of pregnancy or after childbirth, make an appointment to talk to your midwife or doctor. They will be able to help you, give you tips and hopefully put your mind at ease. And if that is a too big step for you, try researching using reliable websites online until you feel more ready to talk to someone in person.

Health Heroes on the Front Lines

The ability to see a doctor, nurse, or other trained health provider when we need to is hugely important. We may not think about it much when we are healthy, but sometimes, a visit with a health provider could mean the difference between life or death.

Unfortunately, millions of people in rural areas and low-income communities live far away from their nearest hospital, clinic, or health center, and don’t have adequate transportation or resources to reach them during an emergency. In fact, about half of the world’s population cannot access health care when they need it.

Consider those living in areas affected by natural disasters, emergencies, or armed conflict. Frontline health workers typically live in or near the communities they serve. If a community is affected by drought, the health workers are affected too. If ongoing conflict causes people to flee their homes and communities, doctors and nurses will likely flee with their families as well (if they can). Those left behind may have no one to provide them medical care or to help them stay healthy.

CARE trains, works with and relies on frontline health workers (FHWs) to deliver health services every day in a variety of low-resource settings. These include doctors, nurses and other health workers with varying degrees of formal and informal training. We know that their jobs are difficult, even in the best circumstances. Now imagine what life is like as a FHW in an area affected by crisis or armed conflict.

Let us introduce you to some of the people doing this work:

Mary is a midwife working in the Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda. She has a three-year-old son.

Photo credit: Jennifer Bose/CARE

Uganda has become one of the largest refugee hosting countries in the world. At the height of the crisis, more than 3,000-7,000 people from South Sudan would arrive every day in the search of refuge. Of the 1.2 million refugees in Uganda, 900,000 are South Sudanese and 86% are women and children in real danger of sexual and physical violence, with many reporting incidents of violence on their journey. Imvepi refugee settlement hosts more than 110,000 refugees.

CARE has established five centers in Imvepi where refugee women and girls can seek assistance and sexual violence survivors can be provided with psychosocial support and health services. Mary works in one of these centers.

She has a busy schedule. At the women’s center, she identifies pregnant refugees who need maternal health services, screens for possible complications, and advises them on antenatal care. She refers any serious medical cases to nearby health clinics and balances a large case load. “Usually in a day I see around 80-100 people, many of them are pregnant mothers,” she explained. “I make sure to highlight the importance of hospital deliveries, as most of them have never seen a doctor before. But it is challenging.”

Because of the scale of Imvepi (about 150 square kilometers), Mary also makes home visits. She provides education on different topics – from family planning to gender-based violence to malnutrition and HIV.

“[Intimate partner violence] is a reoccurring problem in many families. I mostly hear of cases where food shortages lead to physical violence. Many families decide to sell the food rations they receive, ending up with little to no food left for themselves and extreme tensions at home.” Mary said. “I screen such women to see if they are in need of immediate help or referrals.”

Khawla is also a midwife, providing family planning services in Aleppo, Syria. She lives with her husband and children.

Photo Credit: CARE/SRD

Conflict has been ongoing in Syria for over seven years, and civilians are bearing the brunt of the suffering, destruction, and disregard for human life. An estimated 13.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 4.9 million trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, where they are exposed to grave protection threats.

Working through partners, CARE supports 10 primary healthcare centers and 10 mobile clinics in northern Syria to provide vulnerable Syrian households with access to sexual and reproductive health and primary health education and services.

Khawla’s home and the health center often do not have electricity. She spends most of her time talking to women about their reproductive health and contraception. While most of Khawla’s work happens during daylight hours at the health center, sometimes she gets emergency calls from women late at night. “This is what scares me – having to go out during evening or night hours due to the security and conflict conditions in Syria,” Khalwa explains. The nearest hospital is 15 kilometers away.

Mary, Khawla, and other frontline health workers make personal sacrifices every day to deliver life-saving health care and emergency assistance to those in need under difficult circumstances. They experience and witness incredible suffering and choose to run towards the need when many would run away.

At CARE, we want to say thank you to all health heroes, wherever you are. We appreciate you, and your commitment to helping others.

Meet more of CARE’s frontline health heroes in our World Humanitarian Day publication: A Day in the Life of Seven Aid Workers.