Friday, July 15, 2011

Childbirth Series on npr's All Things Considered

Confession: I am an npr junkie. To the extent that when my 5 year old son was asked for a Mother's Day Project, "What is your Mommy's favorite song?" he answered, "the news."

It's like eating your fruits and veggies; you just know you're doing something good for yourself. I can literally feel myself getting smarter as I listen. Ok, maybe not quite, but I do feel like a smarter person when I engage my mind each day during my work commute.

A cherry on top of an already delicious sundae, the show All Things Considered recently aired a series called Beginnings: Pregnancy, Childbirth and Beyond. The first installment struck a chord in me, discussing the many challenges of childbirth in Mozambique.

Having a safe pregnancy and birthing experience, and resulting healthy child almost seems against all odds in the country of Mozambique. There are so many factors fighting against maternal and fetal health, it's a little overwhelming to hear them all in one sitting. The lack of nutrition, education and infrastructure stand out the most to me, as if any one of those is a small thing in and of itself.

Hemorrhaging is one of the leading causes of maternal death during childbirth, mainly because so many women give birth outside of hospitals and birthing centers. While birthing at home is not in and of itself unsafe or unsanitary, there is a severe lack of knowledge among women and their families and friends who attend them, as well as a lack of trained doctors, midwives, and nurses attending these women in their homes. To complicate the issue, the majority of the population live in rural areas with no access to transportation (usually bicycles along dirt roads mind you) to get them to the nearest hospital.

A story is recounted of two women seen giving birth in a hospital, one whose baby lived and one who tragically gave birth to a stillborn infant, side by side in the same room. The woman who lost her baby had been in labor for over two days before she came to the hospital. One can only speculate without having the full story, but had she had a midwife in her home to tend to her needs, she may never have had to make the treacherous journey to the hospital. Had she been more educated, she may have gotten to the hospital more quickly and been able to receive the care she needed.

Coming from a country where our cesarean rate has reached a staggering 32%, I find it hard to imagine a country where true emergency c-sections cannot happen because there simply are not enough doctors or trained surgeons to meet the demand. One nurse has actually been trained to perform cesareans, among other procedures because there are so few medical professionals in the country.

Hearing this story cultivates the continuing desire I have for all women to be educated about pregnancy, childbirth, and birthing options. There is so much that can be said, and much more to learn, but I can’t help but wonder how that woman and her baby’s fate might have been altered had she had a midwife or other health professional with her at her home. We don’t know whether it had been days or hours since she’d felt the baby move, whether or not her water had broken and made way for infection, but had she been more informed and known how to react in the face of various complications or “red flags,” maybe her baby would be alive today.

Some may say the country just needs more paved roads and bicycles, but you know as well as I do that’s a far too simple conclusion.

What this stirs in me is a desire for advocacy. I am always in support of women knowing more about pregnancy, nutrition, and options for birth, and I want to do more. I’m on a quest to find organizations that train and send midwives to poor and underdeveloped countries like Mozambique, to support them both from an exposure perspective and financially. I would like to get to a place where I can offer a portion of proceeds from the sale of my handmade slings and tee-shirt designs to organizations doing this kind of work.

So far in my research I’ve found New Life International School of Midwifery that does just this. I hope you’ll read about what they do and find some way to support them. If nothing else, offer your thoughts and prayers to the woman of Mozambique and the children they bear.

Please share and comment, especially if you know of individuals or organizations offering prenatal and birthing care to women in need throughout the world.


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