A Scottish midwife's invention is grabbing healthcare attention around the world, with a product that has potential to save women's lives.
Her invention has even reached desperate women in the hellish conditions of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
While it won't treat Ebola, it offers safety and dignity as affected women gave birth, providing a glimmer of hope during a very dark time.
Women in other developing countries often face birth complications without access to the latest obstetrical care and recommendations.
Women in countries such as India and China often give birth strapped to a bed, legs in stirrups and without the ability to follow their natural birthing instincts. Some Indian women are even slapped during childbirth, which goes to show just how desperately these countries need help humanising birth.
Being on your back during labour creates complications, including reducing available pelvic space by up to 30%, which can prolong labour and birth. It can be more painful and difficult for baby to manoeuvre through the pelvis.
In an attempt to help improve the birth experience for women, experienced midwife Cass McNamara created a portable birthing aid called the CUB, which is short for Comfortable Upright Birthing.
This inflatable device can be used as a birthing stool and encourages laboring in an upright position. In her 19 years as a midwife it is clear she learned the importance of positioning during birth.
Why Birthing Positions Matter
Wondering how an inflatable birthing stool could save lives? After all, it doesn't seem high tech or like other typical medical equipment.
Research shows that giving birth in an upright position facilitates more space for a baby to rotate and descend which can reduce the length of labour.
Being upright is associated with a 54% decreased incidence of fetal heart rate issues, a 23% reduced incidence of assisted birth and a 29% reduced incidence of emergency c-section. These are big statistics every birthing woman should know.
The leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity are obstructed or prolonged labors. If birthing in an upright position reduces these risks, then it's realistic that encouraging upright birth will reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity.
For women giving birth in developing countries, these statistics can be life changing. Vacuum, forceps and c-section births are not without risks, even in the most modern hospitals. The CUB can help facilitate and support women giving birth in an upright position, whether in a rural developing country or a bustling metropolitan city.
Educating and Changing Birth
The CUB only went on sale last year and has already made its way to hospitals and individuals in Australia, the US, the UK, Norway, Iceland, South Africa, China, India and more.
McNamara has had the opportunity to not only develop a useful birthing tool — she's also been able to help spread the midwifery model of care for hospital based births. Hospitals in India, China and other countries are beginning to get on board with the midwifery model of care, which is a huge improvement from the non-evidenced based practice of confining women to their beds during labour.
McNamara has also been involved in sending teams of midwives to Chinese hospitals. These midwives spend three to six months training nurses in midwifery skills and how to use the CUB to facilitate upright birth. As China's new two-child policy unfolds, the subsequent rise in births means the arrival of midwifery training will be very timely and valuable.
A privately funded hospital in Hyderabad, India, is using the CUB to transform lives as it trains local women to provide midwifery care. Current obstetric practices in some Indian hospitals have left women feeling less than human during their birthing experience. Birthing women are known to be strapped down and even slapped during labour. McNamara's invention and the midwifery training program have the potential to save and transform the lives of these birthing women.
What Makes The CUB Different From A Traditional Birthing Stool?
Most traditional birthing stools are made from wood, making them heavy and extremely comfortable. Birthing women may appreciate the support and positioning while on the stool, but they may also find it too hard or uninviting. They can also only be used by women who are not experiencing any birthing complications or interventions.
The CUB is inflatable, making it light, easily portable and comfortable to sit on. In addition to using it as a birthing stool, it can be leaned on similarly to a birthing ball. Women can use the CUB to sit on, lean on, be on all fours and other upright positions. The multipurpose CUB birthing support can be used by women needing to labour in bed due to their health, or the choice to have an epidural. While a birthing woman's mobility is still greatly affected by an epidural, the CUB may still help women adopt a more optimal position.
Whether a mother is giving birth in a major university hospital with the latest in technology, giving birth at home or in a developed country, access to the CUB can help facilitate an upright birth, with the potential to greatly improve her birth experience.
For more information, see the CUB website.