BirthAid: Birth Life-Saving Skills
By: Jamie Malewska, Marketing Coordinator
You have probably heard us say that a big part of BirthAid is training communities in birth-lifesaving skills…. but you may be wondering what are these skills and how do they save lives?
For women and newborns living in rural areas or high-conflict zones, giving birth can quickly become a life-threatening situation, and quality healthcare can be difficult if not impossible to access. Because of this, preventable causes such as asphyxia, prematurity, and infections are the leading causes of neonatal deaths in these areas.
In order to address this, BirthAid teaches birth-lifesaving skills, that are similar to CPR- relatively easy, actionable steps that anyone can take to help save a mother or baby’s life before, during, or immediately after birth. Some of the skills that are taught in these birth-lifesaving courses include:
- Sanitation practices:
- Proper sanitation practices, like cutting the umbilical cord with a clean instrument, and other basic practices like hygiene, having clean water, towels/cloths, etc. can help prevent infection before, during, and after birth.
- Resuscitation skills:
- If a baby is born not breathing, rubbing their back, tapping the soles of their feet with your fingers, making sure their nose and mouth are clear, and performing mouth-to-mouth can stimulate circulation and get them to breathe.
- Danger signs to look for during pregnancy:
- Knowing common danger signs can help families seek medical care for their birth pre-emptively so they are prepared to receive care before the situation becomes an emergency.
- Once a baby is born, it is important to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life. This can help protect the baby from getting an infection and decreases the risk of death. The World Health Organization has found that breastfeeding in the first hour after birth significantly increases a baby’s chance of survival.
Training In Action
In Afghanistan, Asmaan has gone through the community BirthAid training and shared an amazing story with our team on the ground. One night, her neighbor contacted her because his wife was in labor. This was his wife’s fourth pregnancy, but the three babies before had all been stillborn. When Asmaan arrived at the house, it was not a hopeful place. The family had no expectations of the baby being born alive but asked her to help ensure the mother survived. Fortunately, because of her BirthAid training, she was able to help BOTH mother and baby! Like the previous babies, this one was born not breathing . . . giving all appearance of a stillbirth. Before Asmaan cut the baby’s umbilical cord, she wiped the baby’s mouth and nose with a piece of cloth. She also massaged the baby’s back and tapped the soles of his feet with her two fingers until the baby started breathing! Without BirthAid, it is likely that this baby would have been declared dead at birth.
These trainings on birth-lifesaving skills are empowering communities and individuals like Asmaan to save the lives of mothers and newborns. In Afghanistan, we have heard that people who participate in these trainings are passing the information on, and countless babies and mothers are being saved every day because of this!
Currently, BirthAid is operating in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola, and we continue to look for opportunities to expand in areas of need. Stories like Asmaan’s inspire us every day to continue to help precious newborns and their mothers in areas where the need is most urgent, and help is least available.