Maternal mortality continues to be a major problem the world over. The United States is the only developed country where maternal death rates are increasing especially for non-Hispanic black women. And in low-and-middle income countries, approximately 830 women die each day from pregnancy-related, preventable causes.
Maternal health organizations are working diligently to save more mothers’ lives, but one death is still too many especially when it is likely preventable. I like to list organizations that you can support with donations in order to help them keep more women and their children alive on the local level and make sure mothers are a part of their families’ lives.
This list highlights local organizations that help some of the most vulnerable communities in countries with some of the highest maternal mortality rates. And, in the cases of the United States and Australia, the organizations help the communities that experience the most maternal deaths. Each site allows direct donations that go directly to maternal care and/or advocacy.
Women in low-and-middle-income countries need clean birth kits in order to stave off deadly infections in themselves and their newborns. This is the case not only during home births with midwives but also in institutionalized settings.
Zubaida Bai, founder of Ayzh, a social enterprise that creates clean, safe birthing kits for women as well as reproductive, newborn and adolescent kits, discusses how she included women’s voices in the development of clean birthing kits.
I am convinced that in order for maternal health interventions to work anywhere in the world, women must be consulted first as opposed to NGOs and charities developing products for women without their input. Bai expresses this brilliantly in this recent TED talk.
Every day 800 women die during childbirth or from pregnancy complications. This startling statistic represents women who not only live in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur but also throughout the world.
In order to reduce the number of maternal deaths in low- and middle-income countries across the globe design teams, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and NGOs are creating innovative ways in which to save more mothers’ lives through inexpensive interventions that are conducive to low resource settings.
In many hospitals and health clinics, for example, power can go out at any moment requiring alternatives that allow health workers workarounds to the perpetual problem of power outages. In these settings, women can also experience life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage that requires immediate attention with interventions that stop bleeding. Additionally, some women do not have the money to afford the items needed during childbirth and innovators are solving those problems as well.
While maternal deaths have fallen 50 percent since 1990, in some countries the maternal mortality rate remains stagnant. Only half of expecting mothers in developing countries receive the health care they need to deliver healthy babies and to survive childbirth.
Below are five innovative interventions that are used in countries where maternal mortality is high in order to make a positive impact on saving mothers’ lives.
Jhpiego:(Updated, May 11, 2017) While Jhpiego developed a “testing pen” to catch and diagnose eclampsia in its earliest stages the project did not move forward after rigorous testing.
Safe Surgeries: Jhpiego has partnered with the GE Foundation, funder for the Safe Surgery 2020 Initiative, to ensure mothers have access to safe, affordable, life-saving caesarean sections in Ethiopia. With the help and input of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, Safe Surgery 2020 provides training, leadership skills, and updated procedures for safe surgeries at partner institutions in Ethiopia through implementing partner Jhpiego. The results have seen improved patient care and recovery, fewer surgery backlogs, reduced infections, and a holistic approach to safer surgeries.
PATH: PATH created an antishock garment that controls postpartum bleeding by applying pressure to the lower body and forcing blood upwards and prevents hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage is the number one cause of maternal deaths.
PATH: PATH also developed a balloon tamponade to stop uterine bleeding early. While there are other balloon tamponades in the market, they are expensive and inaccessible, especially in the developing world.
After eight years of practicing obstetrics and researching childbirth in the United States, I know as well as anyone that the American maternal health system could be better. Our way of childbirth is the costliest in the world. Our health outcomes, from mortality rates to birth weights, are far, far from the best.
The reasons we fall short are not obvious. In medicine, providing more care is often mistaken for providing better care. In childbirth the relationship between more and better is complicated. Texan obstetricians, when compared to their counterparts in neighboring New Mexico, are 50% more likely to intervene on the baby’s behalf by performing a cesarean section. Nonetheless, Texas babies still have a lower survival rate than New Mexican babies.
I long assumed that our most puzzling American health care failures were idiosyncrasies–unique consequences of American culture, geography, and politics. But a trip to India for the 2017 Human Rights in Childbirth meeting led me to a humbling realization: when it comes to childbirth, both countries fall short in surprisingly similar ways.
Human rights in childbirth
I take care of patients in at a well-funded teaching hospital in Boston, where pregnant women seem well-respected and have clear, inviolable rights.
We are very pleased and excited to announce our new weekly chats all about maternal health with some of the leading maternal health experts, researchers, practitioners, and organizations in the world under the #maternalhealthchat hashtag.
Starting on Tuesday, November 8 at 1 PM EST with Jacaranda Health we will host 30-minute chats each week all about maternal and reproductive health as well as the health of newborns. We will dig into statistics, best practices, innovative tools and programs that save lives as well as feature and highlight the people and organizations that are making a difference to save the lives of women the world over.
Join us on November 8 at 1 PM EST with our first featured organization, Jacaranda Health. Jacaranda Health is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides high-quality, respectful, and low-cost maternity services to women in Kenya. Their innovations have resulted in 99.9% survival rates for newborns and mothers, 45% fewer maternal complications than nearby public hospitals in Kenya, and postpartum family planning rates that are 4x higher than the national average. To learn more about Jacaranda’s progress, view their 2015 impact report.