The Work Experience of Ashanti Midwives
Nursing major Ashley Barbour traveled to the Ashanti region of Ghana with funding from the International Research Opportunities Program to explore midwifery's grass roots and learn about midwives' experiences in the developing world. Through personal observations and interviews, she discovered the challenges and successes these women face in their daily practice, specifically those related to safety issues and work satisfaction.
Ashley found that poverty proved an obstacle to many women, resulting in at-home deliveries with the assistance of a relative or traditional birth attendant as opposed to in a clinic with the help of a trained midwife. Lack of transportation also leaves some women to deliver their babies alone, with devasating consequences for both mother and child. Post–partum hemorrhage, malaria, anemia, and lack of proper medical care are all challenges commonly faced by pregnant women in Ghana.
For midwives, their primary safety concern is that of contracting HIV from patients. A lack of resources, from protective clothing and supplies to water and electricity, is a major challenge to them in their practice. Lack of respect from doctors was also cited as a challenge. The midwives' greatest satisfaction comes from a successful delivery resulting in a healthy mom and child, especially in high–risk situations.
Ashley reports that her main research finding was the lack of immediate care for newborns. This also results from inadequate resources, particularly the lack of staff and the midwives' need to focus on the mother's health and survival after delivery. "This gave me a much better understanding of why the infant mortality rates are so high in developing countries," she said.
After returning to New Hampshire, Ashley presented her research at the International Research Opportunities Program Symposium in the fall and at the University's Undergraduate Research Conference in spring 2008. In summer 2008, with a presentation grant from the Hamel Center, she traveled to Thailand to present her research at the International Healthy People for a Healthy World conference in Bangkok. She spent the time between her graduation and the conference volunteering at Wildflower Home (Ban Dok Mai Pa) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a shelter for single expectant and recent young mothers.
Update, January 2010
Ashley now works in the neonatal intensive care unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She has been accepted into a master's program at Northeastern University to become a pediatric nurse practitioner in primary and acute care.