The World Health Organization calculates that in 2010, approximately 287,000 women die every year while pregnant or giving birth, and 3.1 million newborns die in the neonatal period (the highest incidence occurring around the time of the birth, and the majority of deaths in the first 24 hours). In the developing world, only about 58 percent of all deliveries are reported as attended by skilled health providers--in some countries, the figure is closer to 10-12 percent. In many cases, the woman does not have access to life-saving emergency care should something go wrong. Of all maternal mortalities in the world, 99 percent occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asia account for 87% of the world’s maternal deaths.
In seeking to make a difference in the realm of maternal and infant mortality, the need for skilled birth attendants is incalculable. According to the World Health Organization, the most critical shortage of health workers in the world, including doctors, nurses, and dentists, is skilled birth attendants. The purpose of the NOVA Childbirth Education Program of G.O.D. Int’l is to address the incredibly high rates of maternal mortality in the third world by responding with more educated and skilled birth attendants. The word ‘Nova’ is Latin, meaning, “new.” Every birth is a unique experience, involving a powerful transformation of a woman to a mother, even if it’s her 6th child. Just as no two women are the same, no two births of the same mother unfold the same. The NOVA Childbirth Education Program is a 4 semester, 27 unit, 7 course curriculum, including a practicum whereby students receive practical, hands-on experience educating, supporting, and advocating for expecting, low-income families in the Nashville area. Their training includes everything from the history of childbirth to maternal complications to communication skills with families and healthcare providers. This practicum allows students to participate in educating and actively supporting families in the prenatal period, within the birth setting, and postpartum period.
Currently, we have one certified professional midwife, another one in training, alongside 7 doulas, 2 lactation counselors, and 8 childbirth educators. In addition to the need for skilled birth attendants and educators, however, there is also a need for skilled nutritionists, family doctors, pediatricians, policy makers, and administrators to ensure that healthy births are made possible under proper regulatory frameworks. Typically, such occupations are trained in wholly separate programs, but we believe that education concerning the health of the mother and baby before, during, and after birth is essential to the overall well-being of women and children.
The NOVA program accepted seven new students in January of 2013, many of them with occupational pursuits that support and strengthen the work of the skilled birth attendants. As a current student, I hope to gain knowledge and experience regarding the birth process and obstacles faced by pregnant women and newborns in order to advocate for policy change regarding maternal and infant health. Another student, Sarah Mascaro, has a nutritional focus, and finds this program especially beneficial as the prenatal diet of a mother will have incredible benefit or consequence on her child’s first five years of life. Julie Carpenter aspires to become a pediatrician, and is starting her journey at the most logical beginning: a child’s formation in her mother’s womb.
While one of the purposes of this program is to produce more educated and skilled birth attendants, it is also our hope to produce women with knowledge and skills regarding the birth process to operate in the many sectors in society in which women and children find themselves. The desire to ensure healthy mothers and babies reaches far beyond the labor and delivery room, and that is where the graduates of this program one day hope to find themselves: in the courtroom, in the classroom, in the pediatric wing of the village clinic, and any place you find a mother or child in need of advocacy, support, and love. The program’s director, Tara Garner, says,
“Childbirth Education isn't just for aspiring midwives because safe childbirth is a basic human right. This human right can be defended and protected by anyone that has the Spirit of God and education in the Word of God combined with a practical education in this very important field. In developing countries, a mother’s death in childbirth means almost certain death for her newly born child - 90 percent of babies born to mothers who died giving birth will also die. A healthy family begins with a healthy pregnancy and birth, and healthy families are needed to make up healthy societies. The world needs and would benefit greatly from more pediatricians, nurses, healthcare workers, lawyers, policy makers, social workers, and counselors who had as part of their professional arsenal, practical education or training in the field of childbirth. This is a matter of saving and improving lives.”