Pregnant women together

Real-life stories - making a difference

We’ve been looking at just how effective relationship-based maternity care can be: for women, for their families, and for maternity care providers. We’ve looked at models that work - in different settings, with different populations, all over the world - and it’s clear that how maternity care is provided makes a difference.

At this point, you may be wondering what you can do to join the movement for change and maternity reform. You might have read some of the case studies shared in the last activity and felt overwhelmed at the idea of creating systems-level change - or maybe it inspired you to think of ideas for your own region! Whatever your response, in this section we look at everyday heroes - people like you you - who took a stand and made a difference in an area of maternity care important to them.

You may be here as a consumer or user of maternity services, as a midwife or doctor, a birth doula, or a policy maker in maternity care. Whatever your role - and whatever your motivation for exploring relationship-based maternity care - you have the power to make a difference. These real-life stories show you how. With step-by-step action and a clear intention, great things can happen from one person noticing a problem and doing something about it.

Vicki Chan

Vicki Chan © Vicki Chan

Vicki Chan is a midwife who has worked on staff in public and private hospitals, as a chosen midwife within the hospital system, with women who choose to birth at home in Australia, and with the impoverished women of Takeo in Cambodia and the Kawangware slum in Kenya. Wherever she has worked, her goal is the same; that is, to build relationships.

Vicki says:

‘As a midwife, I offer myself to the pregnant and birthing woman as a companion, confidante, and partner in her health care. Without exception, I promise to be kind, to listen, and to pay attention… to be patient, to offer sustenance, and to encourage free movement… to be trusting, and trustworthy, to be still when appropriate and act when there is need, to guide but not manage… to endeavour to truly know her, and to adapt my practice to her life and circumstances. I know that a commitment to relationship is the cornerstone to safe and satisfying maternity care.’

(V. Chan, 27 September, 2017)

Vicki is a co-founder of the FreMo Birth Centre in Kenya, and running on a tiny budget with all local staff, it is a living, breathing example of relationships saving lives. With basic amenities provided and the above principles applied, the centre is rightly proud of its remarkable birth outcomes. Into their seventh year, the normal birth rate sits around 96%, neonatal death rates are comparable to the best of western countries, there have been no maternal deaths, zero serious perineal damage, and very low haemorrhage rates.

Relationships save lives.

Dierdrie Cullen

Dierdrie Cullen © Dierdrie Cullen

Deirdrie Cullen is a photographer and mother of three who endured two traumatic caesarean birth experiences prior to an empowering home vaginal birth for her third baby. Deirdrie recognised the impact of birth trauma on both her own self-worth and her experience of motherhood, and she also observed many other women with this same experience in her community. With this in mind, Deirdrie set up ‘Birthing Journeys’: a birth trauma support group.

Dierdre says:

Birthing Journeys has been transformative for many women in providing a space to be heard and to transform trauma to peace and empowerment.

(D. Cullen, 12 September, 2017)

Logan Together

Logan Together © Logan Together

Logan Together is a whole-of-community campaign to make sure every child in Logan City (Queensland, Australia) has the chance to be the best they can be. This group includes members from many different parts of the community, all working together towards common goals.

Logan Together’s Director, Matthew Cox, says:

From pregnancy, through birth and beyond, the earliest years are foundational for life success. That’s why the place to start for Logan Together was maternity care.

Around 10% of Logan women received inadequate maternity care. Doing things differently was the key to addressing this massive challenge. And that required people from the community, health professionals, and community agencies coming together to design and deliver relationship-based care in highly localised ways.

Getting the change wasn’t always easy. There were many views on how to move forward. But within two years, a new community-based model of midwifery continuity of care was born and is now being implemented, providing holistic care and full integration with a wide range of services.

(M. Cox, 29 September, 2017)

Nicole Chegwyn

Nicole Chegwyn © Nicole Chegwyn

In 2004, Nicole Chegwyn, now a mother of three, stood as a political candidate with improvements to maternity care as one of her platforms. Along with three other homebirth mothers who also stood as candidates, they were able to secure a commitment from the State Government for a Birth Centre on the Gold Coast in Australia, at a time when regional Birth Centres were being closed down. The Gold Coast Birth Centre has been successfully running since 2006, serving thousands of women in a midwifery continuity of care model.

Sheena Currie

Sheena Currie © Sheena Currie

Sheena Currie is a Scottish midwife with a background in midwifery education. For the last 15 years, she has been a technical adviser for maternal and newborn health with JHPIEGO. She works with health care providers, local authorities, and community members to identify issues that impede access to care and identify appropriate solutions to address service delivery gaps. Sheena provides technical support to establish midwifery education programs and quality assurance processes, and provides training for other health care workers. Over this time, Sheena has lived and worked in many countries, such as Afghanistan, Mynamar and Tanzania, to help strengthen their maternity workforce. Improving respectful, dignified, and quality care is a priority, with efforts to increase facility births and to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths.

Sheena says:

‘Well prepared community midwives are needed to deliver high quality, respectful, gender-sensitive care. Ensuring women have a supported birth experience with a kind and caring midwife transforms their lives.’

(S. Currie, 19 September, 2017)

Over to you

Do you have your own story or know of one? Share in the comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

Maternity Care: Building Relationships Really Does Save Lives

Griffith University