“It didn’t make me think, it made me feel.” CMNH’s Hannah McCauley and Kirsty Lowe lead interactive session about fistula with Liverpool John Moores University Midwifery students

News article 19 Sep 2019
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On Tuesday 10th September, two of the midwifery team at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health (CMNH) led an interactive session with final year midwifery students at Liverpool John Moores University. The session was designed to discuss maternity services across the globe and prepare these students for their upcoming electives, where some of the students will be spending 4 weeks working in maternity clinics in Uganda.

The session began with a screening of a performance of a play which highlights the perspective of fistula patients in Kenya. The play is one of seven which together form the B!RTH project, a science-art project which uses a series of provocative theatre plays and panel discussions to raise awareness and provoke debate around the vast inequality in maternal and newborn health around the world.

The Kenyan play, Orchid, written by Kenyan playwright, actress and journalist Mῦmbi Kaigwa, is based on real women’s stories of suffering from fistula. Obstetric fistula is the medical term for a hole that affects over one million in women in many low- and middle-income countries. As the result of complications during childbirth, a hole develops between the tissues of a woman’s vagina and her bladder or rectum. Orchid unveils the impact of this awful condition, the stigma surrounding obstetric fistula and its long term effect on women’s health.

Following the recording of the play, Hannah McCauley, Senior Research Associate (Midwifery) and Kirsty Lowe, Research Associate (Midwifery) led a focused discussion around some of the problematic delays in seeking, accessing and receiving care that leads to many women dying in low- and middle-income countries. In groups, they discussed why fistula is still prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa when it’s all but eradicated in high-income countries and some of the most important tools to eradicate obstetric fistula.

Kirsty Lowe reflected on the session:
“Having the opportunity to share knowledge and experience with this group of ambitious women was an honour. We have a social responsibility to ensure women and midwives are empowered and know their worth across the globe, and the ideas discussed around strengthening maternity services were holistic, unique and achievable. As a reflection of our future midwifery workforce, student midwives at LJMU are inspiring.”