Perspectives in Global Women’s Health


Make a positive and lasting contribution in the field of women’s health, both in your own community and globally! Join us for an in-depth examination of birth, social justice, women’s rights and community health abroad.

Birth Institute Global Health Study Abroad courses invite undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic disciplines to examine women’s rights and community health in diverse settings. Conducted in partnership with midwives, doulas and community healthcare providers in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the United States, our unique experiential learning abroad courses encourage participants to explore successful models of women’s health care service delivery.

“The opportunity that participants gain from leaving the comfort of home and fully immersing themselves in another culture is of life long benefit to personal development. Different food, language & customs puts us outside our comfort zone and stimulates personal debate on what is important in our lives and how we can make a difference.”

Course Overview

Our goal is to develop a worldwide network of global leaders who are equipped to make significant improvements in maternal and infant health where it is needed most.

Through our unique participatory approach, study abroad courses encourage participants to reveal “aha” moments in the field, during which conventional wisdom is trumped by deeper, more seasoned insights. Rather than spoon-feeding concepts to participants, instructors use critical thinking, participatory group process, active listening, problem-based learning and reflection exercises to uncover most or all of the relevant learning points from the reading, assignments and study abroad experience.

Participants spend 8-weeks/280 hours engaged in the following activities:

Volunteer at a Women’s Health Facility (approximately 15-hours per week, onsite)

Participants live and work in women’s health facility independently operated by midwives, doulas and/or healthcare professionals who are dedicated to improving health in their communities. Volunteers are given responsibilities based on needs of the clinic, including administrative support, cleaning and chores, community outreach and education. Volunteer rotations are shared with other students and will be supported by activities and assignments to develop skills in group dynamics, communal living, teamwork and communication.

Study Global Women’s Health (approximately 20-hours per week, online)

To complement time spent as a volunteer, participants engage in rigorous academic studies via our dynamic global classroom. Academic coursework includes Birth Institute courses MWS 1201, CAM 1201, LPD 0802 and PRAC 2000. All courses are administered and graded online by an international instructor, including lectures, case reviews, discussion, personal reflection exercises, quizzes, independent reading, research and group assignments.

Exciting Locations Around the World

We partner with locally operated health service delivery centers in some of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world. Take a look at each of our locations below to determine the best fit for you!

  • Guatemala
  • Bali, Indonesia

Transformative Education

All courses are structured with pre-established learning goals. Throughout the course, participants will:

  • Explore public health and ethics that form the basis of high quality, culturally relevant, appropriate care for women, newborns and childbearing families.
  • Gain entry-level understanding of traditional and complementary approaches to women’s health, including prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, fertility and family planning methods and well-woman care.
  • Build capacity for personal reflection and critical dialog about world culture, power dynamics and women’s issues as they relate to civic participation and social change.
  • Develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills required to be effective global leaders regardless of the industry or field.

Reading, lectures and critical thinking assignments will encourage students to analyze and reflect upon the following global women’s health concepts:

  • The social determinants of women’s health and/or maternal and newborn health as they relate to international healthcare service delivery systems, community health and women’s empowerment.
  • Human rights and their effects on health of individuals, including but not limited to: health disparities, domestic partner violence and cultural practices.
  • Culturally competent care and the actualization of anti-oppression in health practices.
  • Health services and infrastructures supporting the continuum of care (organization and referral systems), and how this infrastructure encourages or prohibits access to needed resources.
  • Relevant national or local programs or initiatives; provisions of services or knowledge of how to assist community members to access services such as immunization and prevention or treatment of health conditions prevalent in the country or locality.
  • The legal and regulatory framework governing reproductive health for women of all ages, including laws, policies, protocols and professional guidelines.

Based on educational competency recommendations for social, epidemiological and cultural context of maternal and newborn care by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

Upcoming Course Dates

All study abroad courses are 8-weeks in duration. Students will be required to participate in an online orientation 30-days prior to the start of classes.

Summer 2016                          June 20 – August 12

Fall 2016                                   September 12 – Nov 4

Note for Holistic Midwifery & Doula Students: Study Abroad may NOT overlap with Introduction to Holistic Midwifery or Introduction to Holistic Doula Care.


According to Forbes, the average cost of a university-based study abroad program is $31,270 per semester. Birth Institute courses costs less than $7,000, including tuition, travel expenses, food and housing and may be eligible for credit transfer to your college or university. Please visit our Tuition & Fees to learn more and to download a tuition brochure.

“I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience midwifery in Bali. My time here has not only opened my eyes and heart to the beautiful profession, it has also taught me so much about love and life and about myself as a woman on this earth.”

Who We’re Looking For

The individuals who participate in experiential learning abroad courses today will become leaders in maternal health tomorrow. We seek participants who are able to exhibit excellent communication skills in challenging situations and who are committed to learning non-violent communication and conflict resolution techniques, which requires an unyielding respect for diverse perspective and practices. Candidates should be committed to gaining new perspectives and finding culturally appropriate ways to engage and contribute to the overall experience and success of the program.
From torrential downpours during the rainy season and working in 100 degree F heat, to working in a foreign language and eating new foods, participants must be prepared to leave the comforts of home behind and open themselves to the joys of living a different lifestyle. It is not always easy to maintain a positive attitude in the midst of challenging dynamics and unexpected situations, so we will evaluate applicants based on their perceived and demonstrated ability to do so.

Note for midwifery and doula students:  Study Abroad courses are solely designed to deepen cross-cultural understanding and to enhance participants’ understanding of global maternal and newborn health.  All placements are non-clinical and participation/internship does NOT count toward practicum requirements for Holistic Midwifery or Holistic Doula students.

Hear from Students and Staff

Gain a glimpse of what life is like at Birth Institute’s Study Abroad sites! In this Q&A session, Bee Lauher, Director of Study Abroad, delves into the students’ role in the birth room and the relationships formed with local midwives, as well as the highs and lows of experiencing birth and maternal health care in Guatemala and Bali. Listen to discover what to expect from the course, how to best prepare for the experience, and to gain insight into many of the additional questions you may have!

Gain a better understanding of who Birth Institute students are as well as how our Study Abroad courses have served participants in the past by listening to the following two interviews, conducted by Bee Lauher, Associate Director of Study Abroad.

“I was very touched at the relationships formed between our local midwives and the participants. It is a very positive experience for all parties concerned and something that they will remember forever.”

Admissions Requirements

  • High school diploma (or equivalent).
  • Strong communication and critical thinking skills, maturity, and personal accountability.
  • Minimum of 3-months educational, volunteer or work experience in women’s health, maternal health, complementary and alternative health or related fields.

Already a practicing midwife? Join our team as an advanced student and learn skills for facilitation, teaching and international voluntary service. LEARN MORE about our Facilitator Training course.

Admissions Process

Applications are evaluated on a rolling basis. Participants are placed in small groups and space is limited. Those who receive an offer of admission are required to submit a non-refundable placement fee upon enrollment to secure a space at one of our international placement sites.

Join us! Please visit the online application for instructions

“Midwifery students and facilitators who go abroad live and breathe midwifery every day. They are submerged in learning and doing with mothers and babies without distraction of their ‘ normal’ lives. While the cultural differences are intriguing, the universal truths of mothers birthing babies shine through. As a guest in a foreign country, eyes and hearts are wide open and students live in a state of humble service that will enhance their future understanding of midwifery, hopefully forever.”