March 28, 2012
Volume 14, Issue 7
Midwifery Today E-News
“International Issue”
Print Page

Welcome to Midwifery Today E-News !

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Mexican Art Expresses the Joy of Birth

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Decorate your walls with four colorful Mexican art prints celebrating birth and midwifery. These lively creations also make wonderful gifts.
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Midwifery: Skill, Wisdom, Culture, Love

birth kit

Come celebrate who we are and what we do! Come to the Midwifery Today Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania USA, April 11–15, 2012. Meet and learn from great teachers, including Ina May Gaskin, Stephen Gaskin, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Carol Gautschi and Michel Odent.

Explore Mexican techniques with Angelina Miranda Martinez

Germany conferenceSign up for this full-day pre-conference class and you’ll learn about remedies, techniques and customs from Mexico. You will also have hands-on practice time to learn how to use the rebozo, a very useful tool in all parts of the childbearing cycle. From the first labor contractions to the first days after birth, you will discover how midwives work with both normal birth and problems that arise. Part of our conference in Bad Wildbad, Germany, this October.

Learn more about the Germany conference.

Are you enjoying your copy of Midwifery Today E-News? Then show your support and get more content by subscribing to our quarterly print magazine, Midwifery Today. Subscribe here.

In This Week’s Issue

Quote of the Week

If I had my life to live over, instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished ever moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

Irma Bombeck

The Art of Midwifery

Upon examination, I found a second-degree tear and told the couple that suture repair would be necessary. The couple refused suturing on the basis that they believed the tear should heal naturally. … While on an Indian reservation, I had studied with a shaman and observed the use of seaweed to heal burns and deep lacerations. … I [took] a piece of seaweed that was twice the length of the width of the tear, folded it in half and moistened it with sterile water. I placed it down the center of the tear and brought the edges of the tissue together, carefully aligning them. I also covered the entire length of the tear with a second patch of moistened seaweed. Before departing, I included in my postpartum care plan instructions to replace the outer patch of seaweed each time she used the bathroom. … Upon my arrival 24 hours later for the first postpartum check, all was well with mom and baby. … I discovered the tissue had healed miraculously well. … Ever since that birth in 1986, I have been using seaweed patches with great success as an alternative to suturing.

Denise Gilpin-Blake and Summer Elliott, excerpted from "A Natural Alternative to Suturing," Sharing Midwifery Knowledge, Tricks of the Trade Vol. IV, a Midwifery Today book.

ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn! Share them with E-News readers by sending them to

Send submissions, inquiries, and responses to newsletter items to:

Jan’s Corner

We Can Change the World of Birth

When we look at the international situation of birth, it looks fairly hopeless. However, with so many dedicated people around the world working on it, we can have hope. At the last Eugene, Oregon Midwifery Today conference, my long-time mentor and Midwifery Today columnist, Marion Toepke McLean, suggested that we keep a “Birth Situation Room.” The White House in the United States has a situation room about what is going on in countries around the world. We wanted to expand on this theme because of the parallels between birth processes and societies’ health. We need good births around the world, everywhere!

Wanda Walker, our Web person, and I got the Birth Situation Room up and running; you can take a look at it here. You will also find links to other international work we have done and are in the process of working on. If you have any reports to add about the situation of birth and midwifery in your country, please send them to us. The Birth Situation Room is an important link in our process toward better birth. We are expecting some good reports soon!

I was even thinking about keeping a way to grade what is going on in the world of birth. Marsden Wagner used to do this in his talks at our conferences before he retired. Right now, it seems that Iceland, New Zealand and the Netherlands have fairly good situations for mothers and babies. However, my contacts in the Netherlands are concerned about losing homebirth. Even though the percentage of homebirth is falling in the Netherlands, it is still the highest homebirth rate in the Western world.

It is important that we work on these issues together. It is only with each of us doing own part that we will make important changes. The Global Midwifery Council (GMC) is working hard toward change. We are working on midwifery education, traditional midwifery, letter writing to offending nations and many other projects. Do consider joining us to help change the world of birth. GMC has a new and evolving Web site that you can use to keep up with our projects: Together we can reach our goals. Now, more than ever, we have research that confirms that undisturbed birth is best for motherbaby—more on this topic in the next issue!

Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.

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Midwifery Education: Caring and Sharing:

News and Research

An analysis of South Asian studies showed that the use of clean delivery kits during homebirths could help reduce neonatal deaths in rural areas where there is a limited access to health care.

These birthkits included soap, a razor for cutting the umbilical cord, clean string for tying the cord and a plastic sheet. According to Nadine Seward of University College London, the kits were associated with a 48% decrease in newborn deaths within the first 28 days.

It is estimated that each year 3.3 million newborns around the world die within a month of birth. Nearly all of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries where up to 15% of the deaths are related to sepsis.

One way to combat these high neonatal mortality rates is to use clean delivery kits and implement other clean delivery practices.

Neale, Todd. “Delivery Kits for Homebirth May Up Survival.” MedPage Today. March 02, 2012.

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Learn about midwifery education!

Are you an aspiring midwife who’s looking for the right school? Are you a practicing midwife who would like to learn more? Visit our Education Opportunities page to discover ways to start or continue your education.

Featured Article

Country Contact Reports

Editor’s Note: For this international edition of E-News, we asked Midwifery Today’s country contacts the following question: What items would you include in a birth bag for a resource-deprived midwife?


Thank you for your request for what materials should be included in the delivery kit for midwives in resource deprived areas. As I myself am from one of the resource limited areas, I feel the following are equally important and to be ranked as #1:

  • cord ties (2)
  • soap (1)
  • clean towels (2)
  • surgical gloves (1–2 pairs)
  • scissors or razor blade (1)
  • packed gauzes (2–3 packs)

The following can be ranked as #2:

  • kidney dishes (2)
  • bulb syringe (1)
  • ambu bag (1)

Gebresilasea Gendisha


I would probably suggest having at least (as a bare minimum) the following:

  • fetoscope
  • hemorrhage remedies (herbs, homeopathics, drugs)
  • tools for clean cord clamping (strings, clamps, etc.), scissors
  • gloves, antiseptic solution (whatever is available for infection control)
  • suturing equipment (provided the midwife knows how to suture)

If possible, also:

  • resuscitation bag and mask or at least a pocket mask, especially in countries with high STD occurrence (midwives need to be trained in CPR)
  • clean cloths to create clean surfaces for baby

Nandu Noll

Costa Rica

Here is the list of the most important items I would put in my birthkit:

  • a few receiving blankets
  • flashlight and candles
  • hemorrhage medicine (Chinese herbs, Shepherd’s Purse tincture, Pitocin injection, syringes, Methergin pills)
  • fetoscope or Doppler/gel
  • small bottle of honey
  • some wash cloths
  • water to drink or coconut water (for mom)
  • sterile scissors to cut cord
  • cord clamp
  • suturing stuff
  • sterile gauze
  • sterile gloves
  • blood pressure cuff
  • stethoscope
  • thermometer
  • baby caps
  • big pot to boil water
  • bowl to catch placenta

Of course I carry many more items but these would be the ones I would not like to be without.

Uva Meiner


Great idea; here are my thoughts:

  • gloves
  • a few under pads (for a clean field)
  • cord clamps or dental floss for trying cord
  • bulb suction
  • scissors for cord or clean razor blade that is wrapped up for one-time use
  • alcohol wipes for cord and cleaning scissors
  • a very simple emergency childbirth picture book

Also, the main cause of maternal death is poor nutrition and postpartum hemorrhage, so perhaps Cytotec in every birthkit or herbs for this.

Please send me a consensus as I, too, teach here in Belize and will want to make up emergency kits for the volunteer village health care workers.

Gail Johnson


What items would I include in a birthkit for a resource-deprived midwife?

  • stethoscope and blood pressure testing instrument
  • clean cloth diaper and napkins
  • antiseptic
  • clean cord scissors
  • cord clamp or tape
  • glove or plastic bag
  • plastic sheet
  • drinking water
  • bicycle
  • Methergin and injection set

Meena Sobsamai

Read more country reports and full-length articles on international topics in the 100th issue of Midwifery Today magazine, now available here.

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Put the gift of beautiful birth in her hands.

Brought to Earth by Birth

Give Brought to Earth by Birth, a collection of black and white photographs by Harriette Hartigan, one of the world’s master birth photographers. It makes a beautiful gift for your midwife or doula, for expectant or new moms, for grandmothers and for anyone who loves babies and birth. And remember to order a copy for yourself!
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How would your baby like to be born?

How Will I Be Born?

In How Will I Be Born? Jean Sutton explains the principles of optimal fetal positioning in a clear and straightforward matter. Written for expectant parents, this book is packed with helpful advice and information, including an informative chapter on posterior position. A must-read for all pregnant moms and a book for the practitioner’s lending library. Click here.

Learn about being a midwife’s assistant

The 2-DVD set, Midwife’s Assistant Orientation for the Student Midwife, features a combination of live workshops and demonstrations that will help you prepare for clinical site training and experience. It also includes detailed instructions for many emergencies, as well as role-play of various scenarios such as waterbirth procedures and neonatal resuscitation. If you’re a student midwife or know someone who is, this DVD is a must-have! To order

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Discover The Power of Women!

The Power of Women

When you read this book by Sister MorningStar, you’ll discover how healing words and empowering stories help women listen to their instincts during childbirth. Filled with inspiring, moving stories, The Power of Women will lift the veils from your eyes and let you view the world in a new way. Give it to the pregnant women you know. Help them see the power that resides within them.
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Make sure you get the whole story.

Midwifery Today E-News is only a sample of what you’ll find in Midwifery Today magazine. Subscribe and you’ll receive a 72-page quarterly print publication filled with in-depth articles, birth stories from around the world, stunning birth photography, news, reviews and more. Subscribe. Midwifery Today Magazine

Web Site Update

Read these articles from Midwifery Today magazine now on our Web site:

  • Building Sacred Traditions in Birth—by Whapio Diane Bartlett, traditional midwife
    Excerpt: During the past 18 years, my apprenticeship with birth has challenged me to redefine my concept of boundaries, trust, fear and responsibility. Today, if I could make one statement about building a birthing community it would be this—build on what you know and believe is sacred.
  • The Doula’s Contribution to Mamatoto—by Gail Tully, BS, CD (DONA), CPM
    Excerpt: Even as midwives we can underestimate the long-term grace brought through the presence of a doula at a mother’s side. This is a curious blind spot in our maternity care. As a homebirth parent and midwife, I came to this realization slowly, even though I was a doula myself!
  • Fathers: Those Engrossing First Minutes—by Richard Reed, PhD
    Excerpt: Midwives, fathers and mothers all agree that dads should participate in childbirth. They are less clear, however, about why dads should be there. Do fathers really ease birthing for mothers? Is there a moral obligation to accompany mothers on their passage?

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Wisdom from the Web

The CDC identified a 29% increase in homebirth rates from 2004 to 2009 in the United States, a finding that angers people who view homebirth as a child-endangering scourge. But recent large studies suggest that the experience and training of birth attendants and proximity of emergency intervention are more relevant to safety than birth location, while the birth environment is important to the level of stress the mother and infant experience.

— Emily Willingham, developmental biologist

Studies of doulas (professional labor assistants) have found that when a doula is used, the need for medication and surgical birth techniques decreases by as much as 65%.

— Birthing Naturally, a free source of information about pregnancy and birth

By the time you are about 28 weeks pregnant, your body will have made 50% more blood! This extra blood allows your baby and placenta to grow, so that there is enough blood to bathe the placenta, without neglecting your needs as well. The catch is this: your body can only manufacture this extra blood with enough protein and calories. That’s about 2,500 calories a day (yes, really!) and anywhere between 70–100 grams of protein daily.

— Indie Birth, a Web site dedicated to providing “intellectual fuel for free-thinking mamas”

If you’d like to share a bit of wisdom from the Web, please send a 4–5 sentence excerpt, accompanied by a link, to

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Bring resources about homebirth and midwifery to your community.

Does your library have relevant natural birth and midwifery resources? Did you know that as a patron of the library, you can make requests for specific books, magazines and DVDs? If these resources are not available for mothers to find, how will they make educated decisions? Making requests is easy. Go here to learn how.

Conference Chatter

Stork Hat and Factbytes

If you want to see Tine Greve, Gail Hart and me in a beautiful but silly stork hat, you will have to come to the Harrisburg conference April 11–14. We are instituting a new piece to conference called “factbytes.” The idea of factbytes is to share a very quick fact at moments in the conference so that every attendee will be exposed to bits of information each day. These are tidbits of information which really need to get into midwifery but are often missed. The stork hat on one of the teachers will alert you that a factbyte is coming. It is just a couple of sentences, quick, thought-provoking and something that will stay in your mind—like a 15–30 second public service announcement.

Here is a sneak preview of a factbyte: “Did you know that if the cord is left intact, at about the third minute after birth there is a massive transfer of stem cells to the baby?” This factbyte will help you understand that 30 seconds is NOT delayed cord cutting. I am sure most of you know 30 seconds is not delayed cord cutting, but this piece of information can help you help hospital-based people understand this insight. I think factbytes are going to be an especially rich piece of the conference, and if I were you, I would take notes! (Factbyte by Gail Hart)

We hope you can join us for the factbyte fun, great classes, swimming and Karaoke as we hang out telling birth stories in Harrisburg.

Jan Tritten


I had to tell a Hispanic couple they were having twins after the first baby was born. They spoke no English, and I spoke no Spanish other than being able to inform them “dos niños” to which both mother and father replied, “No.” I repeated, “Si, dos niños” and held up two fingers to emphasize the fact. A few minutes later, baby number two emerged, and indeed, we had dos niños. This was prior to routine ultrasounds, and if I remember, mom had little prenatal care when she presented in active labor. Nevertheless, both babes were born naturally and drug-free in a birthing room in a community hospital.

Christine Posler Domask

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