By Anna Dirksen, PSI Consultant
The countdown to royal baby number two is underway, with many speculating that Prince George’s little brother or sister could arrive as early as this week. Media reports suggest Kate Middleton already has her bags packed and is ready for her return trip to the private wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London. There, she’s expected to meet a team of top doctors and nurses, including an obstetrician, a surgeon-gynaecologist, and a neonatologist.
If every child could be born under such conditions, the world would be a much happier place for moms and their newborn babies. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. Every day, nearly 350,000 women give birth and 800 die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth — that’s one woman every two minutes. 99% of those deaths occur in developing countries.
The problem is that in much of the developing world, when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she faces a series of challenges. First, she often doesn’t have access to the information and resources she needs to help her plan a safe pregnancy and childbirth. As her due date approaches, she may find she’s unable to afford the cost of travel to a health care facility to deliver. This means she’ll be forced to deliver at home, often in unsanitary conditions and without a skilled midwife or birth attendant at her side.
Even if she can afford to go to a clinic, the distance to that clinic for those living in rural communities is often overwhelming, and many women never make it in time. Once there, many public and private health care clinics are simply not equipped to handle emergencies around pregnancy and childbirth. Even the most caring and supportive doctors are powerless at times without the proper tools and conditions in which to do their work.
This is why organizations like PSI are so committed to ensuring that women and birth attendants around the world have access to low-cost products and high-quality maternal health services that can save lives.
Over the years, PSI has developed a comprehensive care package for expecting mothers before, during, and after childbirth:
- Before childbirth, women need access to information to help them plan a safe pregnancy and birth, like information about malaria prevention and proper nutrition. Equally important is access to low-cost and low-tech products to keep them healthy, such as “one-a-day” prenatal vitamins, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and maternity care vouchers giving women affordable access to skilled birth attendants and antenatal care.
- During childbirth, birth attendants and health care providers need to understand the essential maternal and perinatal practices that offer the best chances at keeping mother and baby alive. A “safe birth checklist” (which PSI is piloting with the WHO) and measures to prevent and treat postpartum hemorrhage are critical.
- And in those precious few hours and days after a baby is born, mothers must be given the support they need to breastfeed their children if they can. They and their families must also have access to information to help them plan for future children, with access to family planning options like postpartum IUD insertion if they choose.
While the challenges facing most pregnant women around the world are great, the potential for success is even greater. Nine out of ten deaths due to complications around pregnancy and childbirth can be prevented. We have the tools we need to save hundreds of thousands of women in pregnancy and childbirth.
For every headline you read over the next few weeks about the royal baby’s arrival, we encourage you to share stories like this one about what mothers in other parts of the world are facing. With enough attention, we can change the fate of expecting mothers and their newborn babies.