Maternal health is a crucial aspect of a woman's wellbeing, encompassing their physical, emotional, and social needs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. It is also an area that is severely underfunded, under-resourced and under threat. Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this is even higher, i.e. 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after child birth. (World Health Organisation) Staying informed about the latest advancements, research, and expert opinions in maternal health is invaluable for expecting mothers and birthing people, healthcare professionals, and anyone caring for a pregnant person or new mum. It is also vital to know what’s happening in this space in order to advocate for reform and push back against those who are limiting and rolling back our rights to quality maternal and reproductive healthcare.
In our latest blog post, we highlight 7 experts you should follow to stay up to date on maternal health. Their expertise spans various aspects of maternal health, including the benefits of the midwife-led model of care, trans and non-binary inclusion in fertility and pregnancy care and sexual and reproductive health policy.
Franka Cadée is serving her second term as the President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). Franka is an expert on sexual and reproductive healthcare in general and midwifery in particular, with over 30 years of strategy and policy development, advocacy, leadership, research, and project management experience. She is known to many for her PhD research into twinning, a cross-cultural reciprocal process to strengthen the agency of midwives. With her anthropological and midwifery background plus personal experience of living and working across a range of differently resourced countries, she is well aware of the realities of the field and a strong proponent of a human rights based approach to healthcare. Currently she is a member of the Executive Board of the Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Health (PMNCH) representing the Health Care Professional Associations, a Board member of the ICM WithWomen charity, and a member of the High-Level Commission on the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 Follow-up as well as a consultant on international collaboration to the Royal Dutch Association of Midwives (KNOV).
Ryan Ramharak is a Dutch Hindostani non-binary person working as a policy officer at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands who gave birth about a year ago to their own first child. Since then they have made a documentary about their journey as a pregnant trans person. They have also started to advocate for trans and non-binary inclusion in fertility and pregnancy care. Based on their passion for equal opportunities for everyone, they try to make the world a more beautiful and safer place for queer people and the LGBTQIA+ community by working towards a more inclusive world in areas such as healthcare, education, and the media. Read more about their pregnancy journey here.
Joy Burkhard is the founder and executive director of the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health (the Policy Center). Joy was inspired to found 2020 Mom after several of her worlds collided, including losing her little brother to suicide, learning the complexities of the U.S. health and mental health system while working for a health insurer, becoming directly involved in healthcare policy change, and experiencing the realities of birth and the postpartum period with her firstborn. She recognised she was in a unique position to learn why mothers (and others) were not being treated for mental health disorders in the same way they were for medical conditions.
She has a passion for quality and innovation and believes that the government's role should be to keep its people safe and to that end, establish baseline requirements for businesses so the U.S. can count on our health delivery system. She also believes it's business's role to surpass baseline requirements and delight people with the best possible care.
Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent is Chief Midwife at the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). She has worked as a midwife and a nurse and held senior positions in clinical practice, education, leadership, and management including: Director of Midwifery and Nursing positions for Women’s and Children’s services at Imperial College Healthcare Trust & Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Professor Dunkley-Bent is visiting Professor of Midwifery at King’s College London and London South Bank University.
She has led and influenced national maternity standards and guidance. She also influences healthcare, nationally and internationally through research, education and publications and is frequently invited to speak at national and international conferences. She is a member of the British Journal of Midwifery editorial board and until recently was an active member of the Maternity and Newborn Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine.
She is a part of Tommy’s Charity National Advisory Board as Midwifery advisor, and the Women of the Year management committee. Her voluntary work includes Midwifery Advisor for the Wellbeing Foundation Africa. In 2014 she received the HSJ, BME Pioneers award and in 2015 she was selected from over 100 nominations for inclusion on Nursing Times’ Leaders 2015 list that celebrates nurses and midwives who are pioneers, entrepreneurs and inspirational role models in their profession.
Dr. Roopa Dhatt
Dr. Roopa Dhatt, Women in Global Health (WGH) Executive Director and Co-Founder, is a passionate advocate for gender equality in global health and a leading voice in the movement to correct the gender imbalance in global health leadership. She is also a practising Internal Medicine physician at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. and has faculty appointments as an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Dhatt is particularly committed to addressing issues of power, privilege, and intersectionality that keep many women from global health leadership roles and to opening up spaces for the voices of these women to be heard. Determined to build a movement to transform women’s leadership opportunities in health, Dr. Dhatt co-founded WGH in 2015. Today, WGH has 47 chapters and 100,000 supporters in more than 100 countries and continues to grow. Dr. Dhatt, the Executive Director, the global team, and its network of chapters drive change by mobilising a diverse group of emerging women health leaders, advocating for governments and global health leaders to meet commitments made, and holding those leaders to account.
Dr. Dhatt has worked in global health for nearly 15 years, collaborating with 120+ countries. She holds numerous advisory and board roles. She advises global health institutions on matters of the health workforce, gender equity, and universal health coverage. Dr. Dhatt was recognised in the Gender Equality Top 100, the most influential people in global policy. She was on the Lancet COVID-19 Commission. She is a former W7 Germany Advisor and a current W7 Japan Advisor on advocating feminist agendas to the G7 governments (2023), a member of the Global Council on SDG3, a member of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Scientific Advisory Board, a member of the Virchow Prize Committee, and is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (YGL). She was invited as a public delegate to the historic U.S. Delegation to the United Nations 65th Commission of Status of Women Meeting in March 2021, which was led by Vice President Kamala Harris. She has published in the Lancet, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Devex, and Forbes and has been interviewed in National Geographic, Nature, NPR, BBC, EuroNews, and numerous other channels.
Born in 1956 to a Filipino-Micronesian American family, Ibu Robin shadowed her grandmother, a Hilot (practitioner of the ancient Filipino art of healing and receiving babies into the world). Her grandmother served the people before, during and in the aftermath of World War II. When all infrastructure and healthcare systems were destroyed, it was Vicenta Munar Lim’s expertise in traditional medicinal herbs that preserved lives. When starvation plagued the refugees, Lim’s family practised charity. The traditional beliefs of her grandmother then enlightened Robin to not rest until she became the person she had the potential to become.
Ibu Robin realised that childbirth practices, including pregnancy and postpartum care in rural areas were not adequate for mothers, often experienced as dehumanising, traumatic, and lacking community support. In the tradition of her grandmother, Ibu Robin resurrected beloved heritage midwifery practices for mothers, babies, and families. Through Yayasan Bumi Sehat, a not-for-profit organisation founded by Ibu Robin and other concerned citizens, registered in Indonesia, Philippines, and the U.S., Ibu Robin is transforming the role of the family and community in supporting mothers, during the pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
Dr. Clara Menéndez
Clara Menendez, a medical graduate from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, is a registered specialist in Family Medicine and in Community Health and Preventive Medicine. Shel holds a PhD from the University of Barcelona and a DTM&H following studies at the LSHTM. She has worked in India, Latin America. and PNG. However, there has been a strong focus in sub-Saharan Africa, working in The Gambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. She was a key member of the founding team of the Manhica Health Research Center in Mozambique.
Prof. Menendez has devoted most of her career to describing key determinants of maternal newborn and reproductive health problems and to design and test new interventions. She has made major contributions to understanding the physiopathology and parasite biology of malaria during pregnancy and its clinical consequences for both the mother and the newborn, as well as evaluating new intervention strategies for its prevention. She has also made significant contributions to the understanding of anaemia, the role of iron deficiency, and the effect of iron supplementation on infection. Over the years, she has expanded her scope of work to include other infectious diseases that particularly affect women of child bearing age, including HIV and HPV infection. A major area of focus, that builds on more than 15 years of work, relates to the description of causes of maternal deaths based on full autopsies and the current adaptation and validation of new approaches based on minimally invasive autopsies.
The expertise and insights of these 7 experts on maternal health provide a diverse and comprehensive understanding of this vital field. From high-risk pregnancies to mental health, global equity, and reproductive rights, their contributions address the multifaceted aspects of maternal wellbeing. By following their work, you can stay informed about the latest research, evidence-based recommendations, and advancements in maternal health, contributing to better outcomes for mothers and other birthing people and their babies.