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Desiree Buitenbos

Mobile midwives: how an innovative idea is saving lives in Laos

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Imagine this scenario: You’re an expectant mother living in an isolated community where the nearest healthcare clinic is located many miles away, and getting there involves taking a lengthy journey (often on foot) over challenging terrain.

Now, imagine your water just broke. You’re about to give birth. Do you risk the dangerous trek to the clinic? Or do you stay at home and give birth without any medical assistance?

For many women living in villages across the small Southeast Asian country of Laos, giving birth without a skilled medical attendant present is a common reality that has deadly consequences.Medical staff providing vaccination instructions to mother

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 800 women die every day due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Fortunately, many of these deaths are preventable, and that’s why Plan International is working to save lives through an innovative solution that aims to increase healthcare access to women and babies in Laos. It’s called “mobile midwives” and it provides a 24/7 on-call medical service to hard-to-reach communities.

Jam’s story

Jam holding her baby

Jam with her baby daughter

“My mother gave birth at home, my mother in-law gave birth at home, and all of the women in my community also did that,” says Jam. “It is very common to do so.”

Like many others, Jam went through her entire pregnancy without seeing a doctor, and had every intention of giving birth at home. That is, until complications arose during her labour.

“I spent 2 days in labour trying to deliver my baby at home, but I couldn’t make it,” she says. “First, my mother-in-law and my husband tried to help me deliver the baby, but it seemed impossible.”

Exhausted, desperate and running out of time, a local village chief urged Jam’s family to call a mobile midwife, and soon enough, help rushed to Jam’s aid and gave her the assistance needed to deliver her baby safely, and in good health.

Delivering a brighter future

Today, Jam and her daughter are happy, healthy, and thriving, but things could’ve been very different.

“The health staff saved our lives” says Jam, “because of them we know who to contact and where to go when we are not well.”

Working towards a healthy start for all moms and babies

Help was there when Jam needed it, but there are millions of women who have limited options if they run into complications during labour, and that’s why Plan International is committed to improving maternal and newborn health around the world.

Medical staff administer innoculation

Health staff administering vaccine to Jam’s daughter

Our projects help women receive the essential care they need before and after the birth of their child. This work includes:

  • Training community health workers in maternal and emergency obstetric care
  • Increasing home visits to explain signs of complications to expectant mothers and her family
  • Mobilizing communities by raising awareness at home and in the community
  • Providing affordable and safe transportation to health facilities and using cell phones for referrals and emergency care
  • Equipping health facilities with proper supplies and trained staff.

You can also help support maternal and newborn health by giving a Gift of Hope that ensures moms and babies stay safe, healthy and strong.

Support moms and babies with Gifts of Hope!