Supporting Refugee Women in Birth

In the spring of 2010, the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l started a Childbirth Education (CBE) certification program. This CBE program exists to counter poor maternal and infant mortality worldwide through education. Five instructors, Tara Garner, Celesta Bargatze, Kristina Davis, Emily Galford, and Heather Munoz, have been educating eight students: Elise Buckner, Megan Fleeman, Michelle Madron, Meg Mathews, Kathryn Montgomery, Deb Nava, Tori Roufs, and Jodi Thress, on multiple maternal health topics, including prenatal care, communication in advocacy, labor and birth, postpartum care, lactation, teaching principles, and maternal complications. This spring, summer and fall, the students are completing their childbirth education practicum, through which they have the opportunity to practice the skills they have learned through educating pregnant women and their families and participating in their births.

Meg Mathews supports a Peruvian immigrant throughout her labor and delivery of her first child. Throughout the NOVA Childbirth Education program, Mathews learned important skills for advocacy and labor support. 

Through this practicum, these students have assisted in the birthing process of numerous women in the Nashville area, including Nashville’s refugee population. They have met refugees from Burma, Nepal, Iraq, Bhutan, and Somalia who have been displaced from their homelands, specifically due to poverty from war, and resettled in the United States. Through World Relief, an agency that helps resettled refugees find homes and jobs and learn English and life skills, some of the CBE students have met pregnant refugee women needing education and advocacy. The services they provide include six two-hour childbirth education sessions with the woman (or the woman and her husband), empowering them to make knowledgeable decisions about their care and the care of their baby during birth. They also provide active labor support, facilitating communication between the laboring woman, her family, and the hospital staff, and assuring these birthing mothers that they are not forgotten, ignored, or uninformed throughout the process.

Pregnant and laboring refugee women are among the most needy and vulnerable people in the Nashville area. On the whole, they are void of home, security, and advocacy, living in a country that considers them ‘aliens and outsiders,’ and therefore, unworthy of opportunities for education and empowerment. But they are human beings with rights to informed pre-labor, labor, and post-labor and caring assistance during the miraculous transition from pregnancy to motherhood. Without support, many of these women undergo unnecessary induction and cesarean section. With support, they participate in their own birthing experience and receive education typically denied them, giving them confidence and power as they begin raising their families.

(Compiled from Megan Fleeman, Meg Mathews, & Jodi Thress)