Ultrasound can literally save the lives of mothers and babies. It is something that we often take for granted in industrialized countries, but in Ethiopia this is a service that has hitherto been unavailable particularly in rural health centers.
Imagine trying to look after a patient but not knowing if she is 25 weeks or 34 weeks pregnant or whether she is carrying one baby or twins. A quick and simple ultrasound, especially when performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, makes calculating an accurate due date and diagnosing twins easy.
Ultrasound is a means to help identify women at particular risk during their pregnancies and delivery, and importantly also a means to reassure women that all is going well. Knowing that a baby is smaller than it should be for the time in pregnancy or that a mother has gone into labor prematurely at 32 weeks rather than at 38 weeks are only a few examples of how ultrasound can help midwives in the rural health centers make life-saving decisions for their patients and their unborn babies.
Recognizing the importance of this service, the Hamlin College of Midwives has commenced ultrasound training courses. Thus, the first 10-week intensive ultrasound training course started on 26th February this year, with 10 trainees drawn from mentors, midwives and instructors. The College’s mission is to launch ultrasound services in its Hamlin supported government rural health centers.
The training, which incorporates both theory and practice enables midwives to accurately date pregnancies, identify pregnancy related abnormalities as early as possible and it contributes to preventing obstetric fistula and maternal morbidity and mortality in general.
“The training, provided in consultation with the Radiological Society of Ethiopia and Addis Ababa University, is part of the College’s effort in improving the quality of care for pregnant mothers in 48 Hamlin supported rural clinics throughout Ethiopia,” said Ato Zelalem Belete, Dean of the College and Hamlin Prevention Manager.
“Ultrasound can save the lives of mothers and babies. We are now able to deliver a training that will bring life-saving antenatal point of care ultrasound services within easier reach for rural communities. The lack of midwives who are trained to perform antenatal ultrasounds, as well as a lack of equipment, is a widespread problem putting lives at risk,” he added.
Currently, Hamlin has five portable ultrasound machines with rechargeable batteries. The cost of the training course, including the purchase of the machines is fully funded by the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation in partnership with the IMC Asia Pacific Foundation.
With the completion of this first training course, the five machines will be deployed to Hamlin supported government clinics along with the trained midwives who will be able to use their ultrasound skills to care for their patients. IMC have funded the purchase of a further eight portable ultrasound machines to be delivered this year to continue the ultrasound training and build expertise.
Future midwifery students will be able to learn scanning before they leave College. As more machines become available, they will be deployed to an ever-increasing number of rural clinics with trained midwives ready to use them.
Imagine a future where midwives in every rural Hamlin Midwifery Clinic had access to such technology. What a difference this would make to the lives of Ethiopian women and their pregnancy outcomes.
Author: Felicity Gallimore – Obstetrician and Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation volunteer.