Doula work in Honduras

by Seneca Overduin

DSCN1711I arrived in Honduras at the beginning of September to the coastal city of La Ceiba, the “home base” so to speak, of Dar a Luz. After a concise briefing and orientation with Silvia, I was given a tour of the public hospital in the city centre.

The public hospital in La Ceiba sees about 18 to 22 births a day, and early September is a particularly busy time of year.

Giving birth in the public hopsital of La Ceiba is often a difficult experience for most women, who are prohibited from bringing a friend or partner into the labor room. The hospital staff often demonstrate very little personal care towards the women. First time mothers, women who had never previously delivered a baby in a hospital, or women with previous traumatic birth experiences found the hospital environment particularly overwhelming.

Often there was one woman or girl who appeared to be in more distress than the others, and I would go to her first. Physical comfort measures such as giving massages, warming packs and socks, and water to the women was always greatly appreciated. However, emotional support seemed to be most valuable to the women. I often witnessed the calming effect of merely having a hand to hold, or a few words of encouragement. Because the work is empathy-driven and very physical, my rudimentary Spanish was not too great a barrier.

Over the course of the first week I assisted dozens of women in labor and attended more than ten births. Depending on the day, I would help anywhere from one to six women in a variety of ways.

On weekends, the surrounding area of La Ceiba was at my fingertips: Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, Cayos Cochinos/Bay Islands, and the mangroves at La Union are all easily accessible, beautiful places to find some R&R!

After three weeks, I moved on to the highland city of Santa Rosa de Copan, in Western Honduras.
Santa Rosa is a smaller, more tranquil town set in the mountains. I continued my doula work here at the public hospital. This hospital is physically smaller, but sees more births a day – up to 35 – and there are no curtains between beds, Continue Reading »


IMG_20150529_110842584_HDRby Mary Quaile

On Friday, Silvia, Katharina, and I drove out to a small health clinic near Olanchito. For about 2 hours we wound our way around the feet of the mountains, some covered in thick jungle and some stripped of trees. The town itself was in dry valley down a dusty road lined with some sort of Honduran cactus. The clinic, painted a calming green, sat on the outskirts of town, and as we pulled up beside the building, we were informed that a woman was laboring in the tiny delivery room right at that moment. The woman appreciated the doula support, which Katharina, our midwife from Germany, was able to provide. This clinic serves all the health needs of the community as well as having a delivery room and a maternity clinic. The clinic is only for low-risk pregnancies and sees just about eight births a month.

While the mother was laboring in the room next door, Silvia and I set up the projector and met the nurses who worked at the clinic. Women from the village began to meander in, maneuvering around each other’s pregnant bellies to fill the seats and benches. Silvia’s presentation focused on basics of labor and birth. It started with some essential anatomy with diagrams of what occurs inside a woman’s body during labor and birth. A lot of the women in Honduras lack basic education and some do not even know what the baby grows in or what the placenta is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silvia walked through the hospital experience of birth Continue Reading »

by Mary Quaile

This year for the International Week for Respecting Childbirth (IWRC), Dar a Luz hosted an event at the hospital for the doctors, medical interns and nurses. The goal was to raise awareness of the rights of the mother and child during childbirth in an effort to increase the positive atmosphere of the labor and delivery ward.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silvia started with an introduction about the Semana Mundial del Parto Respetada (IWRC) and the importance of respecting the mother and baby during birth.  She pointed out aspects of the national standards of care for mothers and babies, which are often not carried out in the hospitals. For example, though Honduran women have the right to move around freely during labor, they are usually restricted to bed and they are even denied water to drink though that is also part of the Honduran standards of care. Continue Reading »

by Angela Chromik

Peanut Ball DonationDar a Luz recently introduced a Peanut Ball to the staff and birthing mothers at the Atlantida Hospital in La Ceiba. Nicknamed the “cacahuete” (which is peanut in spanish), the common birth tool brought curiosity and smiles to the staff. The peanut ball is especially helpful within the hospital at La Ceiba.

The peanut ball is regularly used when a woman has had an epidural or is too exhausted to move around. In Honduras epidurals are not available in public hospitals, but a peanut ball provides a great support when a woman is on bedrest during labor.

The Peanut ball is a wonderful aide that assists women in feeling more comfortable in side lying position or lying semi reclined in bed. Used between the legs to open the pelvic outlet, the positioning has been known to help rotate posterior babies as well as promoting dilation and descent with well positioned babies.  It is believed the increased pelvic diameter helps to ease fetal rotation and allows the baby more room to descend.

In one study by Tussey and Botsois (2011), the peanut ball helped to shorten the first stage of labour by an average of 90 minutes, and the second stage of labour by an average of 23 mins. The sample size of the study was small (200 randomized women) yet it showed great potential for positive affects of the peanut ball. The use of vacuum and forceps were lower in the peanut ball group and the rate of C-section was lower by 13%.

Using the peanut ball and birth balls in the hospital as a volunteer has helped demonstrate to the staff how easily they can contribute to the comfort of labouring mothers. Implementing these simple and effective comfort measures aside from the regular hospital care routines offers a gentle influence to a less hands on birth culture. Small, simple, gradual changes can make a big impact. A huge thanks to our friend Anna for her fund-raising work in December which helped to bring many supplies to Honduras including the peanut ball.

Rich Journeys

 by Cassandra West

Pico Bonito

I arrived here in Honduras a week ago now and already am feeling rich and humbled from my experiences. Silvias warm and obvious passion instantly had me feeling welcome here and I have been very excited to begin getting involved. The plan for me is to start in La Ceiba, then to Santa Rosa and finally in the capital. As I am far from fluent in Spanish, Silvia has arranged for me to have excellent Spanish lessons at a very reasonable rate with a beautiful woman nearby. Other volunteers have also had this opportunity. This is helping me ground here. So too is walking and taking in the mountain clad landscape.

Most of my days so far have consisted of Spanish lessons and hospital visits. In the public hospital in La Ceiba I’ve been able to support laboring women in my Doula capacity. I was a little anxious about how things might be here, expecting that I might find it difficult not to be able to stretch far enough to be with all the women at the same time!

Cassandra WestIndeed, I can’t, but that is all the more reason to be here. It is so needed. There are great lessons, too, in trusting my intuition and sensing who most needs my support at any given time. After only a week I feel so happy to be here and to be able to reach out to women during a precious moment in their lives.

Providing emotional support is greatly needed here. The work of Dar a Luz is amazing and I can really feel that transformations are happening. Support, both physically and financially, is greatly needed to help the magic continue over here.

Presence is the key.

It’s a challenging environment to work in for many reasons. Silvia and the Dar a Luz volunteers seem to me angels in this place. I am grateful to be able to hold a woman’s hand as she moves through her pain, to offer massage and pressure point therapy, to introduce essential oils, eye contact, encouragement, warm socks and towels. Essentially, love.

This is just the beginning of my journey here and I know I have lots to learn and lots to offer. Thank-you Dar a Luz for providing such a gift to so many people.

Cassandra Rosa West  x

Thank You 2014

Another huge thank you to our generous donors and volunteers for all your support and donations in 2014! Because of you we can provide essential services and resources!

Christmas Presents from Shawna

Silvia and Shawna with the gifts that Shawna brought for the nurses in one of the hospitals. Thanks again Shawna for all the wonderful support you gave to women in the hospitals.

In December 2014 we were able to deliver gifts of baby clothes to women in the maternity wards of the hospitals in Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and Santa Rosa de Copan. It was especially nice this year to have gifts for the nurses as well!