I watched from the back of a hospital room as two Vietnamese midwives acted out an imaginary interaction between a midwife and a mother. Samaritan’s Purse staff and 15 other midwives burst into laughter as the “pregnant” midwife dramatically groaned from her labor pains and the “real” midwife massaged pressure points in her lower back.
This lighthearted activity was part of a new and groundbreaking birth doula training program—the most recent effort by Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam to combat poor maternal healthcare.
The Struggle of Pregnant Mothers
In Vietnam, pregnant mothers rarely receive the care necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the remote villages of northern Vietnam, where a significant number of Samaritan’s Purse projects are based, pregnant mothers struggle to obtain even the necessary clinical care, resulting in poor nutrition and often growth problems for children. Samaritan’s Purse has worked to establish projects in these remote regions to equip both midwives and mothers with the tools and education to make healthy choices during pregnancy and after birth.
However, in the city of Hanoi, where there is greater access to clinical care, the problem instead lies in a profound lack of guidance and attention for pregnant mothers. For this reason, Samaritan’s Purse established the doula training project with the purpose of training local midwives in the fundamentals of caring for and supporting pregnant mothers.
Doula Training Program
The presence of a doula, a professional who provides alternative methods of support to an expecting mother, is foundational to the maintenance of the mother’s physical and emotional well-being. In fact, it has been found that the rates of both Caesarean sections and stillbirths decline when mothers receive guidance and care from a doula.
Samaritan’s Purse has developed and is currently implementing a doula training program at a hospital centered in Hanoi. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide 15 nurses and midwives with the education necessary to provide alternative methods of support for pregnant mothers, aside from the necessary clinical checkups.
Over the course of the first five sessions, the nurses and midwives have learned pain alleviation techniques, active relaxation methods, and emotional support mechanisms that they can practically apply in their interactions with pregnant patients. Despite being the first of its type implemented by Samaritan’s Purse, the project has proved to hold great promise for future doula training programs. It has effectively laid the foundation for the development of new programs that can target the well-being of pregnant mothers—an often overlooked and underserved population.