Two Swansea Bay University Health Board employees have helped develop maternity training in Africa.
Consultant obstetrician Myriam Bonduelle (above third from right front row) and consultant midwife Victoria Owens (second from left front row) have spent time in Zimbabwe as part of the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, which supports learning and the exchange of skills .
Their aim was to promote the respectful maternity care (RMC) recommended by the World Health Organization as part of a positive childbirth experience which protects women’s dignity and their rights, ensures freedom from harm and mistreatment and highlights the important of choice.
The visit, to Harare, was arranged in conjunction with the White Ribbon Alliance, which promotes quality maternity care for girls and women across the world.
Victoria Owens said: “We feel very humbled to have had the opportunity to have travelled to Zimbabwe as a part of the Wales for Africa programme.
“Many women in Zimbabwe choose to birth miles away from health facilities with untrained birth attendants and no means of transport if it is required.
“From the women’s own stories, we learnt that many make this choice due to fear of disrespectful care in health facilities, where women may be forced to birth alone or forbidden by their carer to move or make noise during birth.”
This was Myriam Bonduelle’s second visit to Zimbabwe, having held a workshop aimed at obstetricians and midwives last year, and she was pleased to see that the work was beginning to make a difference.
She said: “This year we were thrilled to meet back up with the champions from last year’s workshop to help develop an educational toolkit that they can then use to train other staff in their organisation around RMC.
“And it was great to see such enthusiasm amongst the champions as they shared their stories of how the training has changed them and the care they provide.”
The workshop also focused on birth positions and the importance of mobilisation during labour and birth, along with women’s right to have a trusted birth companion.
They also arrived bearing gifts.
Myriam said: “We introduced birthing balls to the programme and midwives couldn’t wait to use them in their workplace!”
Now the pair are hoping that their experiences can help improve services closer to home.
Victoria said: “Swansea Bay University Health board, supported by Wales for Africa, is impacting on the global agenda of maternal and infant health and we are privileged to be a part of this vital work.
“We hope to continue to develop links and are thinking about the different ways in which we can take the principles of RMC to improve our own services.”
Right: The birthing balls provided by Myriam and Victoria