Midwives Need the Right Tools and Training to Help Babies Breath

By Tolase Olatinwo & Cole Bingham

August 30, 2016

In Nigeria, Obasi Emeka had a long, complicated labor and caesarean section. Upon delivery, her newborn looked lifeless and blue — a clear sign of asphyxia.

An insufficient supply of oxygen at birth is a leading cause of early neonatal mortality: almost 2,000 newborns die of asphyxia every day. Thankfully, nurse-midwife Uzonwanne Udochukwu had just received the training she needed to jump into action and help the baby breathe.


Uzo was confident under pressure, knowing what steps to take to save the newborn’s life. Today, thousands of nurses and midwives like Uzo are getting the training needed to prevent birth asphyxia by using simulation tools like NeoNatalie.

NeoNatalie, developed by Laerdal Global Health, is a realistic-looking newborn in size and appearance that helps midwives and nurses learn the initial steps of newborn resuscitation in the first 10 minutes of life. Midwives and nurses around the world are using NeoNatalie units at daylong capacity-building workshop hosted by Jhpiego, an international non-profit committed to promoting the health of women and their families, in collaboration with other partners. These workshops happen right in the maternity wards of many hospitals—bringing training directly to the health providers where they work.


Last summer in Uganda, Jhpiego began a research study with two partners, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Protecting Families against HIV/AIDS, under a Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development initiative. This study integrates two key trainings into one package: prevention and management of postpartum hemorrhage and newborn asphyxia. Because the same provider often cares for mom and baby, this approach helps ensure midwives and nurses have the skills to provide the best care to each patient.

The study launched with 24 district trainers who went on to train more than 600 providers in more than 125 facilities. NeoNatalie’s “mom,” MamaNatalie, was also a vital part of this training, helping teach nurses and midwives to manage excessive bleeding after birth.


This week marked the 100,000th “birth” and deployment of NeoNatalie. Since many of her units have been deployed in countries such as Tanzania, India, and Uganda, she’s known within Laerdal Global Health as “the most well-traveled newborn.”

NeoNatalie — all 100,000 of her — still has many more countries to visit as she continues to help midwives and nurses develop their skills to save newborns worldwide.

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