A Time to End Maternal Morbidity
A young woman is lying in her bed at home attempting to deliver her fourth child in five years. She is anemic and weak. The baby is obstructed in her birth canal. She is writhing in pain. There is no pain medication. The birth attendant is panic-stricken because she doesnít know what action to take. Sheís not sure if the baby will be born healthy or alive. She is just hoping the mother survives. This may sound harsh, but situations like this one occur every day in underdeveloped countries. More than half a million women are dieing each year in pregnancy and childbirth and twenty times as many women are suffering serious injuries or disabilities (United Nations 16). These deaths and injuries not only affect the immediate families, but it also affects the communities and the economies of these underdeveloped countries. Many times, other family members and neighbors have to take on the responsibilities of families when the mother dies or has a major trauma from childbirth. Because of the added responsibilities, these neighbors or family members cannot go out to work and earn money. This in turn hurts the economy. Itís time for the governments to prioritize maternal morbidity by finding financial help in order to fund resources to combat this epidemic.
The governments need to work more closely through organizations, such as the World Bank. With the funds received from these organizations, many resources can become available to end these tragedies. Birth attendants should be trained to provide good quality care during labor, birth, and postpartum, whether services are in a patientís home or a facility. In order to give the best possible care, the birth attendants need to have the proper supplies to detect and take care of medical needs. They should be trained to recognize infections and know how to replace loss fluids with an IV drip. They should be able to prevent and treat the loss of blood with the correct drugs. Birth attendants should be able to recognize malnutrition, eclampsia (high blood pressure that can result in convulsions), obstructed labors, anemia (low iron that can result in weakness and heavy bleeding), and ectopic pregnancies (egg attaches outside of the uterus). They should also be trained to recognize the need for blood transfusions and emergency obstetric care that needs immediate attention by a doctor in a health care facility.
The building of health care facilities is also a resource that can by funded through these organizations, such as the World Bank. Health care facilities need to be built in a strategic location that can be reached by families in a timely manner in the case of an emergency. A transportation system can be set up with emergency response drivers to help women to get to the facilities quickly. Two-way radios can be used in communication on route to the facilities. The facilities need to be well stocked with the appropriate equipment to help in obstetric emergencies. Trained staff needs to be on call at all times to handle these emergencies.
Monies received from these organizations can also be used to start programs and agencies to promote maternal health. Educating women and families is a key element to combating maternal morbidity. Women and men can learn family planning. They can be taught the importance of birth-spacing, contraception, and protection from STDís. Girls should be encouraged to wait for marriage and child rearing until the legal age of 18. With this education, it will lower the rate of unsafe abortions because there will be fewer unwanted pregnancies. Educating women will help them make the right decisions for their futures. Another element of education is to teach about nutrition. Families need to learn the importance of a proper diet and how it affects their bodies and child rearing. For instance, malnutrition causes stunted growth, which leads to obstructed labor. Lack of iron can lead to anemia, lack of calcium can lead to eclampsia, and zinc can help with diarrhoeal and respiratory infections. Agencies can play a large part in helping with this malnutrition problem by simply distributing vitamins. This can help boost their immune systems to fight infections and diseases that also contribute to maternal deaths.
Women play a vital role in raising children and caring for family members. A motherís illness or death can shatter a family and a community. Itís time for the suffering to end for these women and their families. Itís time for action from the governments to find the financial help needed to put an end to a tragic epidemic.
United Nations. Millennium Development Goals Report 2007. 10 Mar 2007 <://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/mdg2007.pdf>