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Maternity experts volunteer in Uganda

A volunteer team of midwives, an obstetric nurse and a nursery nurse have returned from Uganda, after spending 18 days volunteering their time and skills at two different health centres. The team used their annual leave to visit the country and share their knowledge and expertise with local clinicians.

During the visit they were involved in antenatal education, labour and delivery care, as well as immunisation and some postnatal care. They were also invited to attend a health initiative talking to a group of teenagers about sex education, menstruation and self-care, and pregnancy education.

In an environment where electronic equipment isn’t always readily available, the group got back to basics using pinard stethoscopes to listen to babies’ heartbeats and palpations to find their positions. They also spent time sharing ideas for ongoing learning around resuscitation and more regular observations throughout a patient’s stay.

Challenges faced by Ugandan women include difficulties in reaching health facilities, lack of financial support, concerns around discrimination and lack of privacy. Only 57% of pregnant women access antenatal care more than four times, and just half access any kind of postnatal care. Around one in four births take place without a skilled practitioner present.

When a woman gives birth in hospital in Uganda, she and her family are responsible for supplying anything that might be required for their labour and birth, so the team spent time fundraising before the trip. They sourced sanitary products and newborn and feeding supplies, and used money raised to purchase pain relief drugs, iron supplements, blood pressure machines, pinards, stethoscopes, gloves, swabs and needles, to name just a few.

The trip was organised by Tanya Freeman, Delivery Suite Ward Manager at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) and Founder of Women and Children of Africa, the non-profit organisation that facilitates the placements.

Tanya was accompanied by midwives, Georgina Ruxton, Cathy Baker and Rachel Kirkpatrick; Obstetric Nurse, Immaculate Nakatudde; and Nursery Nurse, Bryony Taylor.

Tanya said, “I’m passionate about doing what I can to make a difference to the lives of women and children in Africa, and am grateful that so many of my colleagues at MTW feel the same and are willing to share their time and skills to improve healthcare for those less fortunate than ourselves.

“Volunteering goes both ways, and while we do this with the sole purpose of giving what we can, we always come away with so much ourselves, in terms of the experiences that we gain and the life-long friends that we make.”

Tanya is organising a trip to Ghana in October, and will be returning to Uganda next year.