Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Afghanistan Midwives on NPR

by Jim Wildman

Midwife Farangis Sultani tells the story of a woman who was in a great deal of pain last winter. The woman was in labor — and her family had brought her to the Shatak village clinic after a three-hour walk on the back of a donkey.

Farangis delivered the woman's baby, but quickly determined there was a twin baby still inside the womb. "It was horizontal," she says. "If she delivered a baby that was horizontal, she was going to die."

The young midwife did what she could — and "with God's hand" — the second baby was born successfully. Mother and twin children were healthy — defying the statistics in Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province, where pregnant mothers and newborns die too often because villagers live too far from health care.

"These women are like guardian angels for infants and mothers," says Zafaran Natiqi, head of women's affairs in Badakhshan.

It's a career path that has the backing of elders in the province, even though Afghanistan's culture doesn't normally allow young and married women to work outside the home. Village councils actually vote to select the midwife candidates from their own community.

"I come from a very religious family," says Mawlawi Zabihulla Atiq, the leader of the provincial council. "I realize this is a necessity. It's how we can protect our pregnant women and daughters."

Farangis Sultani has recorded each delivery she's performed in a giant log book. She points an entry that describes what happened last winter:

When I helped that woman, I felt proud. It's an honor for me, for the people who trained me, and for my family.

Jim Wildman is a senior producer of Morning Edition, traveling with NPR's Renee Montagne on her reporting trip to Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FFOM Position Against AHCA 59-A

Florida Friends of Midwives believes that a woman has a right to choose her birth attendant and her place of birth. It has come to our attention that the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is currently seeking to amend the rules that govern the operation of birth centers in Florida. The proposed rule changes, should they be adopted, will restrict a woman's access to out-of-hospital birth for conditions that are widely accepted by the CDC and other regulatory bodies to be safe and normal factors not worthy of high risk status.

This past March, AHCA held an administrative hearing to review proposed birth center rule changes. Prior to that hearing our understanding was that any changes would serve the purpose of bringing birth center rules into greater symmetry with the rule that govern the practice of licensed midwifery. It was also our understanding that interested parties including state midwifery professional organizations and consumer advocacy groups would be kept apprised of further meetings and decision-making regarding this issue. Unfortunately it is now clear that there have been several meetings held in the last several months and additional language was been incorporated into the proposed rule changes based in large part from internal suggestions by the Board of Nursing. These proposed changes include: eradicating the option for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in birth centers; increasing mandatory prenatal testing without recourse; limiting access for any woman who has ever tested positive for Group Beta Streptococcus bacteria; removing the ability for licensed midwives in birth center settings to administer lidocaine; eliminating informed consent for multiparous women; and finally, restricting care providers including licensed midwives, certified nurse midwives, family practitioners or obstetricians, from practicing as they would in a hospital or out of hospital setting, including conducting physicals, evaluating risk score criteria or other limitations that bind them beyond their own practice regulations.

These changes were proposed in a way that does not follow the accepted and appropriate method for amending rules as per Florida's Sunshine law. It also effectively keeps the licensed midwives, certified nurse-midwives and obstetricians who own birth centers out of the process, as well as the women and families who utilize their services.

Please visit our website at for additional information including a copy of the most recent proposed rule changes and a template letter for contacting AHCA staff. Right now it is essential that consumers make our voices heard. Should this rule change be accepted, as many as one half of the women who currently choose to give birth in Florida's birth centers will be unable to do so legally.