Women in Haiti Learning About Family Planning with CycleBeads

Many healthcare providers traveling to developing countries have found CycleBeads® to be a useful educational tool and family planning option during their medical missions.  Below is the story of one midwife’s experience in Haiti and how she used CycleBeads during her trip.

The Situation

When seasoned midwife Cindy Hunter decided to travel to Haiti to help after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, she knew that providing Haitian women with birth control would be a major issue.  Haiti has exceptionally high rates of unintended pregnancies with only 25% of Haitian women in relationships using a modern method of contraception[1]. And since the earthquake, Haiti’s fertility rate has tripled, according to the United Nation Population Fund from 4% to 12%.

Hunter, a practicing midwife from Washington state with 30 years experience, visited Haiti with the non-profit, Midwives for Haiti. Stationed in Terre Noir, a Port-au-Prince suburb, Hunter and her colleagues saw 600 patients in six days. They treated women of all ages including children and teenagers. Among these patients she says, “We saw a large number of pregnant women and diagnosed a great number of pregnancies as well; many of them unplanned.”

Hunter knew that “birth control would be something Haitian women would want. They would want to plan their lives. But I also knew that I was only going to be there for a short time. I thought CycleBeads would be the most wonderful tool.” 

Initially, there was skepticism from fellow midwives when Hunter showed them CycleBeads during the flight to Haiti. Hunter admits “they didn’t think of it as a very powerful tool.”

Talking to Patients

Midwife Cindy Hunter with a New Friend in HaitiAs the first day in Haiti began, Hunter started talking to the local women about their bodies, “Many women did not understand their menstrual cycles – the timing of the pregnancies, when they would be fertile, they didn’t understand menopause. They had many questions.

When young women talked to me about their periods, I asked them if they were regular. They weren’t sure about that because time and calendars aren’t high priorities. When I got the CycleBeads out they were thrilled. They began to see there was a cyclical nature to what was going on. They could expect that their period would come at a certain time and that they could predict it. It’s a wonderful teaching guide.”

And it wasn’t just the female patients who were excited about CycleBeads.

Says Hunter, “I started to explain [CycleBeads] to the first patient we gave them to in Haiti. The first person who got it was Winston, the wonderful interpreter. You could see the light bulb go off.  He took over the conversation and started talking in Creole. I hadn’t said anything, so I knew he wasn’t interpreting he was just expounding. And he was so excited about it.

Winston was so thrilled about [CycleBeads], he started explaining it to all the other interpreters. They saw it as a very powerful tool! They understood how this would give you the knowledge to know when you might have sexual relations and get pregnant, and have sexual relations and not get pregnant. I don’t think most of them knew that concept before that day. Or if they did know there were safe times and non-safe times, they didn’t know how to figure them out.

That next day, every one of the interpreters asked for a CycleBeads for their sisters.”

Winston and Other Interpreters Learning About CycleBeadsEventually the other midwives took notice of the interest from the community and started “coming to my stash,” says Hunter. They began sharing CycleBeads with patients.

Hunter left Haiti grateful for her experience, having both shared and learned a lot, “It’s very fulfilling to do work internationally.” Overall, the experience proved to be rewarding and inspiring.

“I felt good about something that was not just a contraceptive,” shared Hunter, “but a great health literacy tool for the country.”

Back at Home

Upon returning home, Hunter shared CycleBeads with a fellow midwife suffering from headaches she believes were caused from being on the pill. “She found the iCycleBeads app and uses it on her cell phone,” laughed Hunter.[2]

Midwives for Haiti, the organization with which Hunter traveled, continues to send skilled practitioners to serve women and children.

[1] Ministere de la Sante Publique et de la Population and Macro International. Haiti Demographic and HealthSurvey2005,PreliminaryReport.http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR192/FR192.pdf 

[2] CycleBeads are on iTunes and the Droid network as iCycleBeads.

Posted in: Contraceptive Options, CycleBeads, International Family Planning, Men and Family Planning, mHealth, Womens Health

Tags: access, birth control, birth control app, birth control options, Cindy Hunter, CycleBeads, educating girls, education, family planning, family planning app, family planning options, fertility awareness, Haiti, iPhone, male involvement in family planning, medical missions to Haiti, men and family planning, mHealth, midwives, natural birth control, standard days method, women's health

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