A pair of Guatemalan birth attendants practices their medical hand washing techniques at a training session run by the Safe Motherhood Project. (Photo contributed)

A pair of Guatemalan birth attendants practices their medical hand washing techniques at a training session run by the Safe Motherhood Project. (Photo contributed)

Medical team helps Guatemalan mothers, babies

Okanagan-Shuswap professionals improve health by training traditional birth attendants

More babies are being born safely in Guatemala thanks to the support of some local doctors, midwives and nurses.

The Safe Motherhood Project in Guatemala saw the team training traditional birth attendants, known as comadronas, to assist with births in rural, and often poverty-stricken areas of that country.

This year the team was composed of Dr. Ruth Brighouse, an obstetrical doctor from Salmon Arm, Birte Paschen, a registered midwife from Vernon, Shannon Greenwood, a midwife from Haida Gwaii and Annette Borkent, a maternity nurse from Salmon Arm.

They work with Guatemalan teammates: Cenaida Juarez, our co-ordinator, Gloria Cutuj, our practising comadrona, and Gaby Castellanos, a nutritionist and comadrona, in helping to educate birth attendants and improve maternal outcomes.

Related Link: Supporting safe motherhood

“During our first week, we trained 40 women from rural areas northwest of San Marcos itself, near the base of Tajumulco volcano. Some of these hamlets were more than two hours away. Many of our participants were young women with the desire to become comadronas in their communities,” writes Borkent in a message about the journey.

“Our second week was in Sipacapa, which is the center for many very small and remote rural communities. This town of 18,000 has a very poorly equipped Public Health Unit and there are no physicians at all. The nearest national hospital is at least an hour away and generally lacks necessary medications and equipment and often the necessary trained personnel.”

Borkent says the team also dealt with challenges due to the poor condition of local infrastructure.

“For many communities the only access is via poorly maintained dirt roads. The town is frequently without electricity and or water.”

Thirty participants in the program were comadronas with a lot of experience, two were volunteer paramedics and the remaining eight were aspiring to become comadronas.

The course gives the students the knowledge and skills to assess pregnant women during their pregnancy to help prevent complications from arising as well as skills needed should an emergency arise during the birth.

“Once again, it was remarkable to see the students so intrigued by what they were learning. In spite of some having had some previous training, their desire to learn was palpable! We continually heard that this was the first time they had experienced a hands-on type course. Of course, the hands-on nature of our course also ensures that the students learn the skills we teach. We are also able to assess their newly learned skills and knowledge as we continue throughout each week,” says Borkent.

“Even the comadronas with up to 50 years of experience, said they had learned new skills, and that this was the first time they had a course where they were shown, and then, practised the skills. We had wonderful graduation ceremonies to celebrate the students completing each course and each student received their diploma and manual, as well as a kit of supplies to help them during their next number of births.”

Borkent says the team has already been asked to bring our course to other municipalities within the Department of San Marcos and they hope to be back in Guatemala again next year for continued training in the areas of need.


@SalmonArm
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This year the team was composed of Dr. Ruth Brighouse, an obstetrical doctor from Salmon Arm, Birte Paschen, a registered midwife from Vernon, Shannon Greenwood, a midwife from Haida Gwaii and Annette Borkent, a maternity nurse from Salmon Arm. They work with Guatemalan teammates: Cenaida Juarez, our co-ordinator, Gloria Cutuj, our practising comadrona, and Gaby Castellanos, a nutritionist and comadrona, in helping to educate birth attendants and improve maternal outcomes. (Photo contributed)

This year the team was composed of Dr. Ruth Brighouse, an obstetrical doctor from Salmon Arm, Birte Paschen, a registered midwife from Vernon, Shannon Greenwood, a midwife from Haida Gwaii and Annette Borkent, a maternity nurse from Salmon Arm. They work with Guatemalan teammates: Cenaida Juarez, our co-ordinator, Gloria Cutuj, our practising comadrona, and Gaby Castellanos, a nutritionist and comadrona, in helping to educate birth attendants and improve maternal outcomes. (Photo contributed)

A traditional comadrona, or birth attendant, listens to a training seminar. (Photo contributed)

A traditional comadrona, or birth attendant, listens to a training seminar. (Photo contributed)

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