South Africa

Ruth Ehrhardt, Robyn Sheldon, Marianne Littlejohn, and Haaritha Binkowski

Ruth Ehrhardt is a CPM (NARM), a doula (WOMBS—ZA) / Paramanadoula—UK), and a Helping Babies Breathe facilitator and trainer. She lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa with Marianne Littlejohn of Birthrite Midwifery. With colleague Lana Petersen, she started Home Birth South Africa in 2010, a web data base for those seeking information and advice on homebirth in South Africa. Together, they also run the Cape Town Home Birth Gatherings, a quarterly gathering for those seeking information and support on home birth in Cape Town and surrounds. She is part of the team that organises The Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference, which is aimed at sharing and collaboration between South African birth professionals and the women they serve for the purpose of promoting and supporting safe pregnancies and births. Ruth is the author of The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, a book based on the work of Dr. Michel Odent and which explores the hormone oxytocin and the environmental factors that effect it.

Robyn Sheldon, author of The Mama Bamba Way—The Power and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth, has more than 20 years experience pioneering more empowered birthing techniques and training midwives, birth facilitators and midwives. She studied direct entry midwifery in Oregon, USA. She is a CPM with NARM, and practices in Cape Town. Robyn believes that nourishing women emotionally and spiritually affects their birth process and facilitates an easier transition into the world for their babies.

Marianne Littlejohn has been a practicing homebirth midwife since 1982 and has attended more than 1500 births. Waterbirth, hypnobirth, hospitalbirth, twin births, breech birth and vaginal birth after one or more caesarians describe the range of her experience. She was a research assistant for Dr. Nils Bergman’s Kangaroo Mother Care research and is a published co-author of KMC research in the Infant Mental Health Journal. Marianne is a NARM preceptor and midwifery educator to local pilot project students, as well as a Helping Babies Breathe Trainer. She presents spiritualbirth education workshops for parents-to-be and training seminars for midwives, doulas and anyone who works with women.

Marianne tells Midwifery Today: “My hope is to bridge the gap in Africa between western medicine and a primal knowledge of birth that is fast becoming forgotten. I never want to cease learning from my clients, staying humble and passing on midwifery skills that are women-centred and compassionate and well as wise.” Learn more about Marianne at spiritualbirth.net.

Haaritha Binkowski tells Midwifery Today, “I am a midwife born and bred,” and she has personally had a homebirth. She has been teaching advanced practice midwifery in South Africa for 12 years and has published in the field. Projects she is currently involved in include research projects on women’s perceptions of long-acting contraceptives, and non-pharmacological, non-pharmaceutical management of postpartum hemorrhage, as well as a community project concerning child survivors of sexual violence.

Haaritha’s goal for international midwifery is to decrease the silos of practice—to have a space where midwives are respected, appropriately remunerated, and have their practices legitimized across countries. Her vision of the future of birth and midwifery is of an empowering space to birth without fear—for women and their midwives.

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