Young Midwifery Leaders on Midwives’ Needs

During the ICM Congress we had the opportunity to meet and talk to some of the midwives enrolled in the Young Midwifery Leaders (YML) program. They were all eager to share their thoughts on midwives’ needs in their respective communities, such as more support and greater career path opportunities. They also talked about the Congress being a great platform for them to meet other midwives and share valuable knowledge with each other.

Young Midwife Leader Linvell Chirwa from Malawi

Young Midwife Leader Massoma Jafari from Afghanistan

Young Midwife Leader Jigme Choden from Afghanistan

Young Midwife Leader Samara Ferrara from Mexico

Girls’ Globe is at the 31st ICM Triennial Congress in Toronto, Canada. See all of the Girls’ Globe LIVE coverage here

Talking Midwives & Human Rights with Kate Gilmore

“We are all born equal in dignity and in rights and in this there is no north or south, no right or left.”

This was the message Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations, shared with the midwives, parents, supporters & advocates gathered at the ICM Congress in Toronto.

Addressing the need to support women’s and girls’ rights to make a positive difference in our world, she spoke passionately about the need for more humanity, especially in the face of great division and distrust. Today, there are more people on the move within and across national boundaries than ever before, and we see more inequity and injustice than ever before too.

We must, Gilmore insisted, accompany those who bear inequality’s harshest burdens. We must accompany all those the world seeks to deny, exclude or deprive of their fundamental human rights. Midwives are essential creators of the solidarity and unity the world needs so desperately to see. I had a chance to talk with Kate Gilmore to hear more about the role of midwifery in fostering greater humanity and compassion.

We are all born with the same set of human rights, and every single one of us bears a responsibility to defend the rights of others along with our own. This might sound like a colossal task, but there are simple actions all of us can take in our everyday lives.

Girls’ Globe is at the 31st ICM Triennial Congress in Toronto, Canada. See all of the Girls’ Globe LIVE coverage here

Top Tips for Successful Storytelling!

As part of the pre-ICM Congress activities, Girls’ Globe – in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson – organized and hosted a Social and Digital Media Training for young midwives enrolled in the Young Midwifery Leaders (YML) programme. The aim of the training session was to equip young people with the tools they need to engage in social and digital media both during and after the 31st ICM Triennial Congress. The young midwives also learned skills that will allow them to advocate more effectively for midwifery in their communities and globally.

Here are our top tips for creating successful and powerful messages!

These apply not only to YMLs at the ICM Congress, but to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, who would like to improve their storytelling skills. Here we go!

Blogging Tips

#1: Define your passion: write something you care about and tell a human-centered story.

#2: Ask yourself why? Why is this story/your passion important to share with others?

#3: Think quality! Reference correctly, include sources, use pictures you’re allowed to use, have someone edit your work.

#4: Keep it simple and short! Avoid technical language and avoid repetition.

#5: Dare to be yourself and know that your voice, your opinions and your story matter.

#6: Encourage readers to take action – include relevant handles and hashtags!

#7: Share your post and get engaged in online conversations

Creative Digital Storytelling Tips

#1: Use your creativity! And always remember: be yourself! 

#2: Good lightning and good sound. Preferably shoot in daylight and check that your microphone is working properly.

#3: Always have nice background and settings – avoid a white wall. Sit in front of your colourful bookcase, stand on the sidewalk in your city get comfortable in your garden.

#4: Use the right mode – portrait or horizontal – for the respective channels you’ll be using.

#5: Edit your video to make the most out of it. There are several apps and tools that you can use to make it more lively.

Digital Media and Advocacy Tips

#1: Know what’s up and be heard! Stay up-to-date use relevant handles and hashtags.

#2: Stay true to yourself – be your creative self and remember, your perspective is unique.

#3: Go live! Use Facebook Live and/or Instagram Live when capturing a speaker verbatim in real time.

#4: Know the facts! Take notes during events you’re sharing stories from, and make sure that what you’re sharing is accurate.

#5: Get visual! Add photos and videos to increase visibility and offer your own perspective.

Are you ready to put these into practice? Submit your application to become a Girls’ Globe Blogger and join our global network of engaged women and girls from all over the world!

The Importance of Information During Pregnancy and the Role of Midwives

Today most women have access to the Internet. According to midwives Maria Bjelke and Anna-Karin Martinsson who presented their study at a session titled “Information / Education During Pregnancy”, 95% of pregnant women in the south of Sweden use the Internet to find information about pregnancy and birth. Of the women who turn to the Internet as a source, 64% experience anxiety after reading information online. According to a study carried out by Bjelke and Martinsson, there is a significant correlation between women accessing information about pregnancy and birth online and consequently contacting healthcare services.

How should I, as a midwife work with this information? With the widespread access to the Internet, it is important for midwives to inform expectant mothers about reliable sources on the Internet that they can trust, and also to properly inform them that a lot of the information online about pregnancy and birth is unreliable and often simply untrue. I also believe it’s important to assure pregnant women of the fact that most women go through their pregnancy without complications and continue to have a normal vaginal birth, and that serious complications in healthy pregnant women with non-complicated pregnancies are rare.

Bjelke and Martinsson’s study showed that most women who felt anxiety after going online for information about pregnancy or birth found relief from talking to their partner or a friend, or by bringing their concerns and anxiety up with their midwife at their next appointment. For me that means that I have to stay informed about what information pregnant women can find online, so that I can help ease their minds and process their worries and anxiety.

According to Helga Gottfreðsdóttir, Head of Midwifery Studies at the School of Health Sciences at University of Iceland,  most pregnant women in Iceland think that receiving information about the actual birth itself from the maternal health care centers during their pregnancy is either important or very important. Gottfreðsdóttir also found that with first-time mothers and women with mixed feelings about childbirth, more time is needed and should be allocated for information about the labor process during pregnancy. In a follow-up study, 62% of the women who had a instrumental delivery and 32% of the women who had a vaginal birth thought that they had received too little information about childbirth during pregnancy.

Ensuring pregnant women have access to reliable, factual information about pregnancy and birth is also crucial in order to combat the over-medicalization of childbirth. When women receive the latest research and information, they are empowered to make informed choices about their health and bodies and the health of their baby. Midwives need to listen to women, and women need information to make good choices during pregnancy and childbirth. As such, midwives have a professional responsibility to ensure pregnant women are properly informed and advised about all things related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Based on my personal experience, midwives often have limited time to properly discuss such issues with pregnant women and too many pregnant women to take care of at the same time. This must change! Midwives need to be able to meet the needs of all women and give them the information that they need, on their terms. To make this happen, more resources, political will and prioritization of maternal and newborn health is needed in order to ensure that all pregnant women have access to quality maternal health care that properly meets their needs and rights.

Cover Photo Credit: Practical Cures (Flickr/CC)’


Girls’ Globe is at the NJF Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden. Follow the conversations here on and through the hashtag #midwives4all on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more through the following links:

#7: Midwives in America: Interview with Barbara Sellars and Nicole Marshall

Yesterday, 5th of May, was International Day of the Midwife, and in this episode of The Mom Pod, Emma Saloranta dives into the history and role of midwives and midwifery in the United States through an interview with two Certified Nurse Midwives from a New York-based midwifery practice, CBS Midwifery.

Barbara Sellars and Nicole Marshall run CBS Midwifery in New York, and together have delivered literally thousands of babies. When I got pregnant myself in early 2014 and began to research my options regarding pregnancy and birth, I came across an article in New York Times about midwives in New York, which featured an interview with Barbara. It was only at that point when I became to realize that unlike in my native country Finland, and most of Europe, in the U.S. a midwife-attended birth is still a rare thing, and the norm is to have an obstetrician handle the prenatal care and birth – in 2014, only 8.3% of births in the U.S. were attended to by midwives. Unlike in many other countries, midwives in the U.S. are also quite unregulated, and there are many different types of midwives, ranging from Certified Nurse Midwives who have received medical training and degrees both in the fields of nursing and midwifery, to so-called “lay midwives” or “direct-entry midwives”, who don’t have nursing training and often receive their skills and knowledge through self-education, apprenticeships and midwifery schools that are not associated with nursing programs.

Barbara and Nicole giving an orientation to prospective new clients at the CBS Midwifery clinic in downtown Manhattan

Barbara and Nicole shared some very interesting and eye-opening insights about why the care of pregnant women and births in the U.S. was moved from the hands of midwives into the hands of doctors, and what this has resulted in. Studies show that a midwife’s presence is linked to better health outcomes for both women and their babies, and a study in the UK showed that healthy women with low-risk pregnancies were actually safer giving birth in the hands of midwives than doctors. Similar results have been seen in other countries as well. United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world, and is one of only eight countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is actually increasing – and many experts link these problems partly to the over-medicalization of pregnancy and birth, an unnaturally high c-section rate, and the huge gap in access to proper prenatal, postnatal and pediatric care between socio-economic groups.

“By watching, listening and observing the mother in labor, we can assess the progress of labor and the state of the mother without pushing our fingers up the vagina every 2 hours.”

Barbara Sellars

In the case of healthy, low-risk pregnancy, midwife-attended births are known to result in better health outcomes for mothers and babies. According to a recent study by Cochrane, mothers whose pregnancies and births are tended to by midwives have less medical interventions, such as epidurals, episiotomies and instrumental births, less risk of losing the baby in pregnancy or in the first months following birth, and reported higher satisfaction with their care than mothers who received other models of care during pregnancy and birth. My hope is that midwives will become available and affordable to all mothers in the U.S. – and around the world – and that midwives in America will receive the respect and acknowledgement for the incredible work they do for the health, rights and empowerment of mothers and their babies.

Do you like The Mom Pod and want us to keep doing what we do? Help us keep our podcast going! We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the production costs of The Mom Pod, and need your help to reach out goal. You can help us by sharing information about this podcast and the campaign with your colleagues, friends and family and by donating to our campaign if you can! 

Featured image: Barbara Sellars with a patient. Image courtesy of CBS Midwifery

From Despair to Hope

Midwife and citizen journalist Philomena Okello from Uganda’s Lira District describes her journey as an advocate with White Ribbon Alliance.

I have grown up seeing pregnant mothers and newborns being ‘sentenced to death’ for reasons that could have been prevented. The pain of seeing pregnant women and newborns die became a thorn in my flesh and deep inside me, I felt there should be some contribution I can make to humanity to prevent this.”

This was worsened by the fact that I have seen so many pregnant women coming to the hospital to give birth, expecting to go back with bouncing babies. But instead they end up in a coffin, or if the mother happens to survive, too often she goes back home with her dead baby.

On one occasion, a woman died leaving her three-day old baby for me to care for. She had no hope for living, having been rejected by her husband, family members and the community. All that was because it was revealed that she was HIV positive.

Enough was enough. I prayed to God; what could I do to help prevent such horrific situations? The answer was given to me in 2011 when I attended the International Scientific Conference for nurses and midwives in Moroto, Karamoja District. The then commissioner of nurses in Uganda talked about White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), its vision, mission, goal, principles and values. I immediately joined White Ribbon Alliance. Since then, I have been a very active member, championing improved healthcare for mothers and newborns.

Philo talks to women at a rural health facility in Lira
Philo talks to women at a rural health facility in Lira

I feel so much joy when I see pregnant mothers and newborns receive the care they deserve in their homes, in the community and health facilities. This motivates me to work harder and mobilize the community to ensure mothers get the care they have a right to.

Women in my community are marginalized and feel they can not openly speak for themselves. I am happy to be a voice for them, sharing their challenges so that they can receive better heath care. As a representative of WRA in Lira, I’m empowering the community to speak up and hold their leaders accountable for their promises of health services.

Last September, I was chosen to represent my community in New York during the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I spoke to an audience of 200 leaders from around the world. The audience was clearly moved when I told them in the past 2 years I had witnessed more positive change due to the social accountability initiative of White Ribbon Alliance Uganda than I had seen in the previous 40 years of my midwifery career!

Recently, the citizens in Lira District petitioned the Member of Parliament (MP) about our poor maternal and newborn health services. The MP has presented this petition in Parliament and we are hopeful the Government of Uganda will support our campaign – ACT NOW TO SAVE MOTHERS.