Design as development aid

Birthing simulator

Laerdal Medical has developed a birthing simulator that may contribute to reducing childbirth related deaths in poor countries.

Industrial Designer Paulina Quiñones Gonzalez came to Norway from Guatemala through the exchange program Design Without Borders in 2009. For twelve months, she had an internship with Laerdal Medical in Stavanger – a company that develops patient simulators for the public health service.

During her exchange period, Gonzalez contributed to the development of the childbirth simulator MamaNatalie. The simulator gives childbirth helpers in developing countries realistic training in life threatening complications that may arise during childbirth. The training makes the childbirth helpers better equipped to provide life saving help.

Exchange with a Purpose

UN Millennium Development Goal number five is aiming at reducing the number of women suffering pregnancy and childbirth related deaths by three fourths by 2015. Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals, this is the one that has had the least progress.

According to the World Health Organization, 350,000 women still suffer childbirth related deaths each year. Of these deaths, 99% occur in developing countries, and many of them in relation to hemorrhaging.

Sold at Cost Price

By fall 2011, the childbirth simulator MamaNatalie is in normal production by Laerdal Medical’s production company in China. It is sold at cost price to projects in developing countries.

Similar childbirth simulators on the market cost up to several hundred times as much as MamaNatalie. The fact that MamaNatalie is so affordable makes it possible to distribute the simulator in large quantities all over the world. Today, MamaNatalie is used when training childbirth helpers in countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania and India.

MamaNatalie is also distributed to western countries through the campaign Buy One Gift One. For each MamaNatalie sold in western countries, Laerdal Medical donates one extra MamaNatalie to training programs in developing countries.

An Important Training Program

Laerdal Global Health and the organization Jhpiego is developing the training program Helping Mothers Survive, which will be used together with MamaNatalie. The course material utilizes simulation based training, it is culturally adapted and focuses on simple measures that can save many lives. The training program is based on a “train the trainer model”, ensuring that knowledge is spread to a large number of childbirth helpers.

The first course module is under development and is called Helping Mothers Survive Bleeding After Birth. The module will be pilot tested in fall 2011 and is expected to be ready by spring 2012.

More Life Saving Projects

After completing her internship with Laerdal Medical, Gonzalez was offered a twelve month employment by the company. Today, she is a permanent employee and an industrial designer for Laerdal Medical’s sister company Laerdal Global Health. The company focuses on needs related to the situation surrounding childbirth and is established to contribute to reducing infant and maternal mortality in developing countries.

Laerdal Global Health aims to offer a portfolio of 10 to 15 innovating training and treatment products that are culturally adapted, user-friendly, highly affordable and durable in use. Today, one of the things Gonzalez is working on is a new module that can be used together with MamaNatalie and that will make it possible to employ MamaNatalie as a tool for other educational goals.

Facts about MamaNatalie

  • The birth simulator is made of neoprene and plastic and can be attached to the stomach of the instructor.
  • It contains 1.5 liters of artificial blood, an artificial uterus and the baby simulator NeoNatalie.
  • The instructor uses his or her hands to control the position and heart rhythm of the fetus, the delivery, the consistency of the uterus and the intensity of the bleeding, among other things.

Facts about Maternal Mortality

  •  Most childbirth related deaths occur in connection with the delivery itself – usually as a result of hemorrhaging, infections, strokes, delayed or impeded childbirth, or after complications caused by unsafe – and often illegal – abortions.
  • Close to 400,000 women and girls suffer pregnancy or childbirth related deaths each year.
  • In poor countries, one in four girls becomes a mother before they are 18 years old.
  • Pregnancy or childbirth complications is one of the most important causes of death for girls between 15 and 19 on a world basis.
  •  In Bangladesh, eight out of ten women give birth alone, without any health care.
  • It is more than 200 times as dangerous to give birth if you are a poor woman compared to a rich woman.
  • Of all women that die during a pregnancy, 99 percent are women in developing countries.
  • In Norway, between one and four women suffer childbirth or pregnancy related deaths each year.
  •  By far, most of these deaths could have been avoided through sufficient medical treatment.
  • Reduced maternal mortality is number five on the UN list of Millennium Development Goals. However, no goal is the world farther from achieving by 2015.
  •  Despite some reduction in maternal mortality in areas of South Asia, over 100,000 women still die each year as a result of complications during pregnancy.
  • In Africa south of the Sahara – where over half of these deaths occur (57%) – there has been no measurable decrease in the last 20 years.

(Source: Care)