Guest Post – Kaya Collingwood – My time spent as a student midwife in Malawi

I’ve asked my lovely friend Kaya to do a short post about her time spent in Malawi. Partly because I remember when she was there and the stories she told were quite amazing and quite unbelievable. But also to share a first person account of the strain on hospitals in countries like Malawi.

Hello all! Laya has asked me to do a small guest post about my time spent in Malawi. Last summer, after a crazy three years at Manchester University, I finally graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Midwifery. The process was a long and hard one but I learnt some amazing things and feel extremely privileged to be a midwife where I am able to support women and their families as they go through the most incredible and life-changing journey.

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In the summer of my final year, as my degree was coming to an end and all 20,000 words had been handed in I headed to Malawi, East Africa to undertake a midwifery elective placement. I was based on the delivery suite in an extremely busy hospital where there were up to 35 babies born there a day. The unit was split into two: a paying side and a non-paying side although the differences between the two were minimal. There were 14 small cubicles on each side each with a bed and a curtain for privacy, although often these were left open. The most noticiable thing that stood out on the unit was how quiet it was. It is the cultural norm within Malawi for women to endure labour and childbirth in silence, most often without any pain relief.

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Coming from a high-tech state of the art hospital, where gas and air, diamorphine and epidurals are used frequently, this was quite an alien phenomenon. Although pethidine was available, I did not see any women request it.  I did recognise how remarkably resourceful the midwives were, given the lack of medical supplies that we are so use to using in the UK. Whilst I was there, there were 2 midwives and a few students caring for around 14 women in labour. The UK norm is one Midwife to one Woman in labour. Again this showed how strained their resources are. Overall I had an amazing experience and will never forget my time in Malawi. The country was so beautiful and the midwives were all so kind and welcoming. They worked extremely hard and it was clear they were proud of their jobs. The experience provided me with an incredible insight into midwifery practice in a low-income country. Although it may be a cliche it made me so grateful for all we have in the UK, especially the NHS. My published article in Nursing Standard

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For more info into the improvement of maternal health outcomes in Africa go to http://lamrn.org

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