Meet Dr. Alexis Tran. She’s an OBGYN resident at Albany Medical Center and a Saving Mothers volunteer. Recently, she presented her research on family planning needs in San Juan, Guatemala at the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists World Congress in Rome.
During her study, she found that 72% of women in Guatemala do not use contraceptives, and among the 24% who do, 13% use Depo-Provera injections, while only 3.6% use oral contraceptives.
Most of the non-users surveyed (57%) lacked access to contraception or were simply unaware of their contraceptive options. Other barriers included religious or cultural beliefs (13%), and limited finances (13%). Among birth control users, 30% said contraceptive knowledge influenced their family planning decision making. 22% said timing their next baby affected their decisions most.
Dr. Tran’s presentation marked the first of its kind for Saving Mothers. You can view more of her findings here.
Today’s blog post is by Medical DirectorTaraneh Shirazian. Taraneh has been very involved with our work in the developing world and has been instrumental in developing our new partnership with ILAC (Institute for Latin American Concern) in the Dominican Republic. Read on to learn a bit more about Taraneh’s experience in Santiago!
Yesterday, I presented at a cooperadora educational meeting in Santiago, DR. The cooperadoras are community health workers, who are trained at an annual 2-day educational symposium in the city of Santiago at the ILAC center, and then go back to 160 rural villages in the DR to screen people for various medical issues.
I presented a slideshow in Spanish on common gynecologic problems in the community such as incontinence, prolapse and abnormal pap smears. The presentation included 2 Spanish surveys that the cooperadoras are to give to women in the community to screen them and identify these issues.
The response was tremendous! The cooperadoras are so excited to go back to their communities and identify women who have prolapse, incontinence and abnormal pap smears. We are planning to return in mid October to see the women they have identified and provide surgical intervention or pessaries for those who need them.
We are so excited to work with ILAC and the cooperadoras of Santiago to reach out to women in the rural communities who are in need of these services.
Last week, I read an article about maternal mortality in South Sudan. It was shocking, as articles about senseless death always are, even after you’ve read thousands of them. In a country of over eight million people there are only eight registered midwives and 90% of births take place without a skilled birth attendant. 2,000 women die for every 100,000 live births: the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world.
Alarming statistics, to say the very least, and yet reading this article, I had a sense that this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Maternal mortality doesn’t exist in a vacuum- it’s part of a larger matrix that includes, among many other things, access to health care, education, and women’s rights. In a place like South Sudan that has been torn apart by war, rape often goes unreported, forced marriages are common,and less than a fifth of women over age 15 are literate, it’s not difficult to see why maternal health so poor.
For more information on maternal health South Sudan:
Hello readers! It’s been a while since we’ve had a post from the field, so here I am with a new blog entry from intrepid volunteer Kathleen Bernard, writing to us from Santiago, Guatemala. Hope you enjoy reading about her experience!
We have had a very busy two weeks so far in Santiago! Our main point of contact has been with the Centro de Salud, the government funded health clinic here that sees the majority of individuals in this community when they are in need of care. Dr. Chumil, who runs the clinic, set us up with Dolores, a local nurse and midwife who has taken us under her wing. With Dolores, we’ve shadowed comadronas on pre-natal and post-natal visits, shadowed other nurses in the Centro, attended a TB support group meeting, attended a monthly meeting of all local health workers, and gone on rounds with the nurses vaccinating and weighing children. The Centro de Salud maintains a comprehensive, block by block map of all the infants, children and pregnant women in the different neighborhoods of Santiago. They have it color-coded to show which children are underweight/at risk of malnutrition and which pregnancies are considered high-risk. Nurses and health educators are constantly heading out into the community to check up on these patients- it’s really impressive. That being said, the clinic consistently falls short of government-set health goals.
Our days shadowing the comadronas have been the most exciting for us. We make sure to introduce ourselves as students of medicine who are interested in maternal health, and that we are hoping to learn from them about the work that they do. It feels like they appreciate having foreigners around who are looking to learn from them, rather than the other way around (at least we hope that’s the case!). Our goal at this point is simply to see as much of what the comadronas do as we can, in order to bring that information back to Saving Mothers. There are an astounding number of pregnant women here! Comadronas typically visit their pregnant patients every two weeks, although that increases to every 8 days once the due date approaches. They do abdominal massage, note the position of the fetus and check for signs that something could be wrong, for example swollen limbs or pain in the head or chest. We’ve learned a little about the herbs used during childbirth and after, but the specific medicines used are particular to a given comadrona, and many comadronas are guarded about their favored herbs. A lot of what has been interesting is starting to understand the complex relationships between the different health centers, the comadronas and the patients. There’s a tremendous amount of distrust of modern medicine from individuals in this community, although we’ve been told that that is changing rapidly.
Yesterday we met with Elena, a comadrona and curandera in San Juan, and tomorrow we meet with her again along with all of the San Juan comadronas. We are going to pick a week to live with Elena and shadow each of the comadronas there. Hopefully we will get to see a birth! We have been “on-call” to attend a birth with a comadrona here in Santiago for the last week, but nothing has happened yet. Here as everywhere, it’s impossible to predict exactly when a baby will come.
At this point in our trip, more than anything else we are overwhelmed by how giving everyone has been to us. Just about everyone we’re reached out to has responded generously and openly, sharing their time and knowledge. We feel so privileged to be here, to have access to a network of people involved in the health of this community, and especially lucky to have another month and a half to deepen the relationships we’ve made.
This is just to say Thank You to all of you wonderful supporters who donated to Saving Mother’s during our annual Mother’s Day fundraising drive. We raised over $50,000 that will go towards the goal of continuing to advance maternal and child care both in the US and abroad. We are so grateful to each and every one of you- we wouldn’t be able to continue in fulfilling our mission without your support. Here’s hoping that everyone celebrated a wonderful Mother’s Day!
Today is the last day of our Mother’s Day campaign. If you’re able, please consider making a donation on our website and we’ll send an e-card to the recipient of your choice, letting them know you made a donation on their behalf this Mother’s Day.
From all of us here at Saving Mothers, a very happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful moms out there!
The weekend is here and I hope everyone is enjoying some rest and relaxation (and don’t forget to call your mom tomorrow and wish her happy Mother’s Day!)
Today we have a blog post from Dr. Joelle Morrow, Dr. Carolina Bibbo, and Samantha Haspel RN who are down in Santiago Atitlan. I shared some photos of these lovely ladies last week and now you can read about what they’ve been up to in Guatemala these past few days.
Hope you enjoy!
As part of our countdown to Mother’s Day (only 10 days away!) I thought I’d share another story from the field here on the blog today. One of the truly great things about working on the Saving Mothers blog is that I get to hear all the amazing stories of our volunteers working in the field. It’s amazing to hear about the experiences of these young doctors who travel to places like Liberia and Guatemala to try and improve the environment for pregnant women and new mothers in resource-limited settings.
For example, this is Kimberly Ferrante.
Kimberly is a resident at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. She recently made the trip to Monrovia, Liberia and spent two weeks teaching and delivering babies at the Redemption Hospital as a volunteer for Saving Mothers. I was particularly touched by Kimberly’s reflections on her time in Monrovia since it was clear how much she had been personally affected by the experience. In talking about her experience providing training to the local doctors and midwives, Kimberly said ”While I always taught, I now realize the crucial importance of teaching. I can teach people how to manage patients appropriately so that even though I may not be there, my knowledge is there and perhaps that can save someone’s life.”
In addition to teaching, Kimberly was also called upon to help in some particularly difficult births. She delivered a shoulder dystocia (an obstetric emergency where the baby’s shoulders fail to emerge shortly after the head). No one else was capable of the procedure, but Kimberly managed to pull it off and deliver a healthy baby boy. Kimberly said “I was huffing and puffing after the baby came out- mostly because I was holding my breath! But he was fine, and so was his mom! She looked me right in the eye and said ‘thank God for you.’ I don’t think I have ever gotten as sincere a thank you as this woman gave me that day.”
It’s always amazing to hear not only what these volunteers give, but also what they take away from their experiences in the field. We at Saving Mothers are so proud of our volunteers and we ask for your help in continuing to support the inspiring work of people like Kimberly. Please visit our website and lend your support today in the form of a special Mother’s Day donation! We’d appreciate it more than we can say. And don’t forget to stay tuned for more updates on the projects we’ve been working on this year as we continue the countdown to May 13th!