Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million global initiative that applies Merck’s scientific and business expertise to help reduce maternal mortality worldwide. So far, with our partners, they have helped an estimated 3.5 million women around the world including the United States.
At most hospitals in low-resource settings it is very unlikely that women would receive pain medication during labor. This is a problem, however, when women must receive emergency C-sections. While some administer general (inhaled) anesthesia, the spinal anesthesia poses more risks when there is no adequate training. However, doctors and researchers have shown that spinal anesthesia can be successfully given in low -resource settings with proper training.
Doctors and researchers from the non-profit, Kybele, Inc, have worked at Ridge Regional Hospital in Accra, Ghana, a regional referral hospital that has an estimated 8,000 births per year, many high-risk deliveries. Kybele, Inc began the MOMS (Making Obstetric Management Safer) program at Ridge Regional Hospital where they teach nurses practical skills for spinal or epidural anesthesia.
Last year the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) was endorsed by the 67th World Health Assembly. The new report ranks the listed corporations by ENAP’s five strategic objectives including:
investing in care during labor, birth and the first week of life
improving the quality of maternal and newborn care
harnessing the power of parents, families and communities
counting, measuring and tracking births, deaths, program quality and performance
Exxon, for example, has created a program that helps prevent malaria in pregnancy in Chad and Cameroon. GE funds technology for quality maternal health care in over 150 countries and Johnson & Johnson funds mobile phone programs that sends maternal health news and information to women in 175 countries.
Without the added financial support and investments in maternal and newborn health, the number of newborn deaths would not decrease substantially over time. The report also shows each of the corporations and the countries in which they work. Since, as aforementioned, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the highest number of newborn deaths, they also have some of the most corporate newborn health and survival programs of all of the countries. Health care equipment and services and pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors make up the vast majority of corporations.
Michelle Hartney has been an artist and activist for maternal health and obstetrics since the birth of her daughter and son: Shine and Seamus. While she says both of her deliveries were empowering, they were also very troubling prompting Hartney to create awareness through art about the high maternal mortality rate in the United States as well as obstetric abuse that she says is all too common for women across the country.
“I was shocked to discover that the way American women give birth now is rooted in a past that is riddled with misogyny, racism, and abuse. As I was reading as much as I could about the history of obstetrics in America, I was filling up my sketchbook with ideas and was flooded with visuals and topics that I wanted to make work about.”
For Hartney’s second delivery with her son, her doctor did not deliver her daughter, but she was instead assisted by a resident who wasn’t going into the field of obstetrics. She ended up fighting with the resident and a nurse about wanting to deliver her baby on her side; an option previously agreed upon by she and her doctor. Instead, they forcefully told her to “lie on her back” to deliver. Since Hartney had a doula who advocated for her during childbirth she was able to deliver on her side in four pushes, but the experience was difficult for her to handle.