Two women pregnant women are waiting to go into labour at Gertrude’s house in Kayunga village in the Ugandan Central region. Gertrude has been a traditional birth attendant for more than 40 years and delivered thousands of babies. In remote areas and due to lack of health care and high transport costs many women face the threat of givign birth entirely alone unless they seek help from so called “village midwives” or TBA ( traditional birth attendant), that often have neither a formal eductaion nor running water in their facilities.
In Uganda giving birth is a woman’s affair. In a society where women generally have little to say giving birth is the last space where a woman may feel that she is in control of things. Traditional society looks at women who handle the process alone as strong individuals and regards babies born outside the hospitals with TBAs ( Traditional Birth Attendant) to be stronger than babies born in hospitals. However in rural areas with little access to formalized health care and financial shortcomings regarding transport to the next health facility, women often seek help in labor with traditional birth attendants (TBAs). In roughly 80% of these births traditional herbs are used as a painkiller or to induced labor, sometimes bringing relief but also disaster when wrong dosages are administered or obstructed labor is not assessed correctly. Gertrude has been a village midwife for more than 40 years and delivered thousands of babies. For the women that come to her she is the only help available for if she wasn’t there they probably would have to give birth entirely alone. They are dear helpers and companions in the dark hours of labor yet often have no formal education, running water, electricity and work with merely their hands and their experience. Sadly a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa still has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth.