Columbia Nursing Program Aims to Reduce Maternal Deaths in Bangladesh

May 5th is International Day of the Midwife


Photo courtesy of Columbia University School of Nursing

Although the maternal death rate in Bangladesh was cut in half between 2000 and 2010, childbirth  in the South Asian country is still risky, and 240 out of every 100,000 pregnant women die while giving birth.

Two Columbia midwifes are now investigating ways to reduce that rate, in a project funded by CUSON's Center for Children and Families. Nursing graduate Jennifer Wilen and Laura Zeidenstein, DNP, director of the Nurse Midwifery Program, spent four weeks stationed at a hospital near Dhaka conducting educational workshops for traditional birth attendants (dais) who deliver more than 80 percent of Bangladeshi babies in the home. Dais are typically middle aged, poor village women.

Cultural beliefs about childbirth contribute to the low social status of dais in Bangladesh, and videotaped interviews with the dais were a key component of the project. In an article published on the CUSON website, Wilen said:

The first step was to let the [dais] tell their stories. By talking to these women, we allowed them to realize that we both do the same thing—attend births. They realized that not only did we have things to teach them; they had things to teach us.  That was so powerful."

Click here to learn more about the School of Nursing's midwife project in Bangladesh.