RCM reported today that the redevelopment at Bournemouth University’s midwifery campus in Portsmouth boasts the latest training equipment and high-tech audio-visual kit. Professor Gail Thomas, midwife and dean of health at the university, commented
‘The developments at Portsmouth will enhance the experience of our east-based student midwives, providing them with high quality skills laboratories, lecture and seminar rooms and general learning space......the skills room contains a birthing bed, costing over £7000, a birthing couch, a profiling bed and a Resuscitaire, costing about £8500.’
It's a stark contrast to the care and training available in Africa, as our student midwives are quick to find out.
"In Britain we are quite tactile with the women, providing comfort and verbally coaching them along the process and generally making sure the care given is women-centred. In Tanzania the women are brought to labour ward at 7cm dilated and are then assessed by one of the midwives. The woman is then instructed to lay on her side and is left until she starts pushing. If a woman was to call out in pain then the midwives would tell her to be quiet." Kayleigh Hitchcock
It's a similar story in Ghana, where women labour in one room.
"The strength of Ghanaian women is inspirational. Not only do they click their way through contractions but when they have reached the second stage of labour they manage to walk between two rooms in order to bring their newborn to this world." Anne Dichmont
And in Nepal "they undertake 12000 deliveries per year - pretty much double what we do at our hospital at home - and these are all undertaken on 3 delivery beds in one delivery room" Emma Calvert
All three girls were amazed at the resilience of the women in difficult circumstances, but found they were reminded of the obvious - that women give birth every day. Anne was even moved to comment that she had renewed faith in womens ability to resist the intervention of epidurals.
If women are able to cope with minimal resources, is Bournemouth's new facility the best use of money? Are we overeager to step in in the UK?
Lots of people will have an opinion on this one, but as someone who has given birth in the UK, I can say that I was extremely happy to have midwives experienced in the latest technology, and more than extremely happy that I was in labour in the UK and not in Africa! The benefit of taking an elective in a developing country is not to prove how little we can survive with, but to highlight global differences and put midwifery into perspective. It's to learn new skills and go back to the basics of your training. You will undoubtedly learn an enormous amount about yourself and your profession, but to work in the UK you will need to also understand hi tech equipment and different methods of intervention. This is how midwifery in a developed country is practiced.
I'll leave you with a quote we just got in from Tiggy Claustres, who was on the Ghana Village Experience when a girl arrived in labour. She had walked for two hours to reach the clinic.
"At around 10pm the power cut, (darkness in Ghana is VERY dark!) and despite being told earlier in the day that there was a lantern for this situation, we found it had no batteries, so the baby was born a couple of hours later by the light of the torches on our phones. The power came back as the baby let out its first cry!
That is undoubtedly an experience Tiggy will remember for the rest of her life, and no doubt the story will be passed around the villages in Ghana too!