Giving birth

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the world

In honour of the International Congress of Midwives, WaterAid photographed and interviewed new mothers and midwives from around the globe. This stunning photo-series tells their stories.

By Kelsey Miki

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the world

Photo: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Midwives around the world

Midwife Bimola Kobiraz

Dacope Upazila Health Complex, Bangladesh
Bimola: “When I started working here, there was a poor supply of clean water. Patients suffered a lot from not being able to drink clean water or use a clean toilet.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Al Shahriar Rupam

Midwife Bimola Kobiraz

Dacope Upazila Health Complex, Bangladesh
Bimola: “I hope for mother and baby [to] a healthy life. I also want to make mothers more aware about poor conditions of water, sanitation and hygiene, to help their babies be safe.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Al Shahriar Rupam

Midwife Bimola Kobiraz

Dacope Upazila Health Complex, Bangladesh

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Al Shahriar Rupam

Nurse-midwife Samuel Nshimyumukita with mother Ruth and her newborn

Nzangwa Health Centre, Rwanda
Samuel: “I just love my job. I am doing what I have always wanted to do. Seeing a mother who is in pain, and then you help her to deliver, and you take the baby and give it to her, and you see her happy to be holding it in her arms—I think that’s an amazing thing to behold. I feel like I am happier than the mother herself at that moment.” 

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Behailu Shiferaw

Midwife Helen Faux with new mother Rebekah

Liverpool Women’s Hospital, UK
New mother Rebekah relied upon the support of the midwives to help her through her difficult labour and emergency C-section.
Rebekah: [The] have all been brilliant—they’ve been really supportive. They went through all the stages with me. If I didn’t have the midwives supporting me, I probably would have broken down. The midwives kept me going.”

midwife helen helps new mother with babyPhoto: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Midwife Helen Faux

Liverpool Women’s Hospital, UK
Helen:[Midwifery] is about providing emotional support to the women, too. For example, first-time mums often need a lot more support than mums who’ve done it before. But each baby and each person is different on this ward.”

midwife helen holds newborn babyPhoto: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Nurse-midwife Kennifer Samu with new mother Ruth

Ngokwe Health Centre, Malawi
Nurse-midwife Kennifer Samu helped new mother Ruth deliver her first child. 
Ruth: “When I was coming here, I brought with me three Chitenje fabrics, of which one is used to cover the baby and the other two are used during and after giving birth for cleaning myself. I also brought with me a plastic foil used during birth to hold the water and blood, to keep the bed clean, as the ward only had two beds.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Dennis Lupenga

Nurse-midwife Kennifer Samu with new mother Ruth

Ngokwe Health Centre, Malawi
Ruth: 
“The hospital doesn’t have enough toilets and bathrooms. Yesterday when I was having contractions, I visited one of the toilets and they were all occupied. I ended up visiting the nearest bush to relieve myself. It was scary but I couldn’t hold it. A lot of women do that as well. Worst still, when I had given birth, I had to use the basin I brought to defecate and my mother had to get rid of the waste. I felt so sad. My dignity was lost as there were other women in the maternity ward who saw what happened.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Dennis Lupenga

Nurse-midwife Kennifer Samu with new mother Ruth

Ngokwe Health Centre, Malawi
Ruth:
“Despite facing all these challenges, I was happy to have received the best care from our nurse-midwife. She was very helpful. She would come to simply check me and my baby’s pulse and temperature.” 

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Dennis Lupenga

Midwife Joanne Yan with new mother Colleen and her newborn

Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, Canada
With the help of her midwife Joanne, first-time mother Colleen gave birth at home.
Colleen: “I think I was too busy to even prepare mentally for the birth. I was trying so hard to get everything done before the due date and she came a week early. But I managed to get the important things done. I found Joanne, and she had availability, which was amazing. I knew her medical background was very advanced. I had a lot of trust in her.”

mother and midwife admire babyPhoto: WaterAid/ Danielle Donders of Mothership Photography

Midwife Joanne Yan

Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, Canada
Colleen: “My midwife’s medical background put me at ease. But also, her demeanour and the way she talks. She’s so gentle with everybody, so compassionate. But when it was crunch time—she wasn’t soft then!”

midwife joanne checks on babyPhoto: WaterAid/ Danielle Donders of Mothership Photography

Colleen’s newborn daughter, Soraia

Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, Canada

newborn baby in ottawa birth centrePhoto: WaterAid/ Danielle Donders of Mothership Photography

Midwife Daniel Paul with new mother Sada

Kiomboi Hospita, Tanzania
Midwife Daniel Paul helped new mother Sada deliver her firstborn son, Jafary.
Sada: “I have enjoyed my stay here in the hospital because the maternity ward is always clean, we have mosquito nets, everyone sleeps on a bed and, above all, we have tap water nearby and nice toilets. Although I have had complications with this pregnancy, the nurses have been very supportive.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ James Kiyimba

Midwife Daniel Paul

Kiomboi Hospital, Tanzania
Daniel works in the ward for women who have had Caesarian sections or have been admitted with complications pre- and post-partum.
Daniel: “I chose to be a midwife so that I can help the women who are pregnant, the women who are breastfeeding and also the newborns. I believe that if I help these women, they are a big help to the nation.”

a midwife holds a newborn baby in the maternity wardPhoto: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Midwife Daniel Paul

Kiomboi Hospital, Tanzania
Daniel: “The work being done here at the hospital truly makes me feel good because I’m seeing change. Personally, when I think of a baby getting sick, it is really paining to me, because all I can think [is] if it were me during that time—if I had gotten sick—I would not be here today.”

PHOTOS: Midwives at work around the worldPhoto: WaterAid/ Eliza Powell

Did you know that there are 1,500 registered midwives in Canada, and last year, they delivered over 38,000 babies? (That’s around 10 per cent of the country's newborns!)

Midwives from around the globe are meeting in Toronto this week for the International Congress of Midwives. In celebration, WaterAid photographed and interviewed new mothers and midwives from Canada to Bangladesh (and many places in between) about their experiences bringing new life into the world. From struggling to find enough clean water to handling an emergency C-section, these beautiful photographs of midwives at work show the differences in delivery settings, as well as the pain and joy shared by new mothers, no matter where they give birth.

Read more: Choosing a midwife or doctor Myths of midwifery What is a birth centre?

This article was originally published on Jun 19, 2017
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