Several recent items on birth topics have caught my eye for sharing – the first of these is “Birth of a Surgeon,” an episode of “Wide Angle” that aired last night on PBS stations. This documentary piece follows Emilia Cumbane, one of the first Mozambique midwives to receive surgical training in order to perform c-sections and hysterectomies when necessary.
The Introduction to the film explains the rationale for this unique training program – following a 16-year civil war (which ended in 1992), Mozambique’s “health care system was devastated and one in ten women were dying in childbirth. There were only 18 obstetricians for a population of 19 million.” In those circumstances, maternal mortality was very high. In 2004, an initiative was launched to train midwives in obstetric surgeries to alleviate the shortage of physicians and skilled medical care for pregnant women, with the goal of reducing maternal mortality. Cumbane is one of 30 students in the first class of these midwives; the women graduated from their training this month.
The website for “Birth of a Surgeon” includes a preview, discussion of American midwives, data on global maternal health, and additional resources.
If you missed it in May, PBS also recently aired a shortened version of “A Walk to Beautiful,” a documentary about the impact of obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. Set primarily at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the piece profiles three women who seek medical assistance and hope after years of uncontrollably leaking urine and/or feces, living in huts, and being shunned by their communities and families.
The full-length version of this film has won several awards; the abbreviated-for-television version can be viewed on the NOVA website for the program. There are also several links to additional information and organizations doing work to treat and prevent obstetric fistula.
Finally, our own Judy Norsigian was featured on Chicago Amplified for Chicago Public Radio, alongside Carrie Klima of the UIC College of Nursing and National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Klima provides a brief history of childbirth in the United States, and Norsigian talks about the new book Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and current issues surrounding birth.