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Gentle Birth in Haiti-Yayasan Bumi Sehat to Set Up Permanent Clinic

In June 2008 while visiting Bali with my family I made a visit to Yayasan Bumi Sehat.  I was under the impression we were visiting a birthing center, I was soon to find out that this clinic was so much more.  I was inspired by what I encountered at Bumi Sehat and by Robin Lim.  As it turns out the vision, generosity, and passion of this organization and her founders has extended itself to the people of Haiti.

I want to give you a little taste of the history behind this organization. In 1994 Robin Lim lived in Ubud in Bali, Indonesia where she began seeing pregnant women and their babies free of charge. As could only be expected as time went on and word spread more and more people came to see her. By 2006 “Yayasan Bumi Sehat” was in full effect. These days not only do they provide a space for women to have “peaceful, gentle births", (Indonesia has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in Southeast Asia according to the World Health Organization) they work with the community in many other ways as well. In addition they provide general health services, capacity building, and community outreach. They are committed to working with and supporting the people in and around Ubud and of course at their center in Aceh, Indonesia.

It did not take long for the people of Bumi Sehat to respond to the emergency in Haiti.  According to the United Nations approximately 15% of the 63,000 pregnant women in the earthquake affected areas are at high risk for life threatening complications.  In addition for the 7,000 that will give birth within the next month the risk factors are even higher.  Though the earthquake has intensified the situation for women and children in Haiti the infant and maternal mortality rate before the crisis was the highest in the Western Hemisphere according to the United Nations. 

The class that wouldn't speak...

I have been teaching childbirth education classes for a about a year and a half.  At the beginning of each series there is always a hint of nervousness-most of my anxieties dissipate the moment the pregnant couples start to walk in the room.  Once we get through the introductions everyone is at ease, comfortable. The dialogue begins, questions are asked, group activities commence.  

From time to time I find myself in a class setting where dialogue doesn't begin, questions are not asked and the group activities are done with reluctance.  I recently agreed to teach a few classes for a local non-profit.  The director of the organization received a generous grant to start a doula program.  They have had great success with this program and have been able to provide doula care for a particular population of women for free. They asked me to come in to teach a weekly childbirth education class which I accepted with great enthusiasm. I was looking forward to working with this demographic of women and could not wait to get started.  Thus far there have been a few challenges; I am used to teaching a class where women are usually in their third trimester-in my last class I had one woman due the following day and another woman who just found out she was pregnant. However, the biggest challenge thus far has been lack of participation.  I have experienced a less than enthusiastic class in the past but I have never experienced this level of-I am not sure what to call it-hesitation.  I have tried all sorts of tricks and maneuvers; nothing I have done has been successful in breaching the barrier.  I spoke to a few of the doulas that work in the program and they have assured me they have encountered the same situation.

Eating And Drinking In Labor

Trust your instincts-as a doula and childbirth educator I find myself advising my clients to listen to their gut often. In fact, had I not heeded that advice myself eight months ago my son may have been born without our midwife present.  Laboring women however are not always “allowed” to follow their instincts especially when it comes to eating and drinking in labor.  Its funny-you wouldn’t dream of advising an athlete against hydration or obtaining a little extra energy through food (it has been said that giving birth is like running a marathon).  But in hospitals worldwide women are told they cannot eat or drink once they are admitted.  Some hospitals allow a clear, liquid diet and others don’t allow laboring women anything other than ice chips-no matter how long their labor!

This practice is decades old and was implemented to prevent Mendelson’s syndrome which can occur (rare-but fatal) if a patient undergoes general anesthesia.  The fear is that if a woman has eaten or drank anything the contents of her stomach could be drawn into her lungs while she is under.  The message here is that every woman in labor is at risk for a cesarean section. It’s not just a cesarean that is the driving force (for which an epidural/regional anesthesia would be used) but an emergency cesarean where time is a factor. Instinctually it would seem women are missing out on the benefits of fluids and food in labor for a lot of what ifs!

Call For Appropriate Infant and Child Feeding in Haiti

In response to the emergency situation in Haiti- UNICEF, The World Health Organization and The World Food Programme have called for the support of “appropriate infant and young child feeding.”  UNICEF, WHO, and WFP have also advised attention be paid to the “unnecessary and potentially harmful donations and use of breast-milk substitutes.” Without the attention of such organizations the dangers specific to mothers and their babies could easily and unintentionally be overlooked. 

Call for Support for Appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding in Haiti

In response to the emergency situation in Haiti- UNICEF, The World Health Organization and The World Food Programme have called for the support of “appropriate infant and young child feeding.”  UNICEF, WHO, and WFP have also advised attention be paid to the “unnecessary and potentially harmful donations and use of breast-milk substitutes.” Without the attention of such organizations the dangers specific to mothers and their babies could easily and unintentionally be overlooked. 

Urgent Call for Human Milk Donations for Haiti Infants

Washington, DC -- The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), International Lactation Consultant Association/United States Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA/USLCA), and La Leche League International (LLLI) are jointly issuing an urgent call for human milk donations for premature infants in Haiti, as well as sick and premature infants in the United States.

Lamaze And ICEA Bring Together The Birthing Community

WASHINGTON, DC, December 03, 2009; 24-7 PressRelease

Lamaze International and the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) are joining together in Milwaukee, Wis., September 30 - October 3, 2010, to celebrate their 50-year anniversaries. The 50th Anniversary Mega Conference, Celebrating Our Pasts, Uniting for the Future of Birth, will unify the birthing community in an unprecedented event that combines education, research, networking and social activities.

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ICEA and Impact Media

Early in 2008, Impact Media Communications contacted ICEA and stated they would no longer be able to produce special issues of the New Parent Magazine for ICEA members that did not include formula advertising.

Since ICEA is in support of the WHO guidelines for breastfeeding and does not support advertising for formula, ICEA has severed its relationship with Impact Media.

If any ICEA educators are continuing to distribute the New Parent Magazine, please know that it does contain advertising for formula companies.