Improving the outcome for birthing moms

27 October 2009 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

NPR has run a few stories via the BBC news hour about the incredible death rate of African moms during childbirth. Faced with a lack of care, these moms-to-be—particularly in Ethiopia, but also throughout the continent—frequently give birth alone and receive no prenatal or post partum care. One woman dies every minute worldwide, almost all of the deaths are preventable.

It’s been interesting listening to some of the issues being faced in Africa, in comparison to our own system. There, according to the report, malnutrition leads to weak, small moms struggling to birth large babies, apparently laboring for days sometimes and frequently dealing with untreated tearing. Most of the deaths there are the result of haemorrhage (source: Unicef). Here, and in countries with similar healthcare systems, the deaths are far lower and stem from c-sections or reaction to anaesthesia.

At first I found it kind of ironic listening to how much Ethiopian women would benefit from access to c-sections while our death rate here is often blamed on the over use of the surgery. After reading this article, I’m struck by some consistent themes:

  • Access to adequate care: More midwife-attended births would prevent a lot of unnecessary intervention here and provide much needed aid there.
  • Nutrition/poor health of the mom: There it’s malnutrition bordering on starvation. Here it’s obesity. In either case the outcome isn’t great for mom or baby.
  • The real puzzle Even in this country, African women are more likely to die during childbirth than Caucasian women, regardless of wealth or education.

    It seems far too easy to fix these issues and yet nothing seems to be changing. Maybe the change needs to start from the top. One thing clear from the NPR report anyway, there have been multiple summits and lots of conversation but sadly, very little action.



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