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From the heart: Mongolian midwife Oyunchimeg reflects on thousands of safe births

 

Ulaanbaatar - For as long as she can remember, Oyunchimeg wanted to be a health professional - specifically  She a midwife at the First Maternity Hospital, the top maternity facility in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar..

“I studied midwifery for four years at the school of nursing,” Oyunchimeg says. “After I graduated I was sent to the Ulaanbaatar City Health department where I was one of only four selected to work at the First Maternity Hospital.”

After 36 years and a whopping 17,100 successful deliveries, she’s still there, doing what she loves most.

“My profession is a very joyful one as it is about bringing happiness to families. Often, people greet me on the street and show me their child, saying, ‘This is the baby you delivered!’  It never fails to make me proud of what I do.”

Oyunchimeg hopes to impart this sense of pride to young midwives, and to encourage more young people to take up midwifery. She fears that the profession has not been attractive to young people in recent years, and is not appreciated as much as it should be. 

“It is hard work,” she admits, “and it entails a great deal of responsibility. After all, you are looking after two lives – the mother and the baby.“

 

Oyunchimeg (centre) with colleagues at Ulaanbaatar's first maternity hospital. Photo: © UNFPA / Angelica Esguerra 

 

She worries that new graduates are put off by the lack of job opportunities in Ulaanbaatar, and that young midwives posted in more remote ‘soums’ (Mongolia’s district administrations) witness fewer births and don't get enough opportunities to hone their skills.

UNFPA is working with the government to help address this, by ensuring that midwifery practices in Mongolia meet international standards. This is essential to boost the quality of midwifery in the country to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, and also to attract a new generation of midwives to follow Oyunchimeg’s footsteps.

“I’m nearing retirement,” she says, “but then I don’t think I will stop soon. I’m very proud to have been the ‘umbilical mother’ of so many children, and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.” 

Showing no signs of slowing down, Oyunchimeg continues to seek ways to improve both her own work and the quality of her profession in Mongolia, including through international training courses.

“I am grateful to have had the chance to learn so much and to have worked with so many bright people,” she says.

When advising young midwives Oyunchimeg’s message is simple:

“Work from your heart. Approach each and every expectant mother with empathy and look after the newborn like you would your own. That’s what it takes.”