Tag Archives: women’s health

Despite Differences in Culture, US and India Fall Short in Childbirth in Similar Ways

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Woman in labor, shown with monitors. 

Neel Shah, Harvard Medical School

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.

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Neel Shah, center, pictured with Jishnu Das, a Lead Economist at the World Bank and Leslie Page, President of the Royal College of Midwives. Neel Shah, Author provided

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.

Continue reading Despite Differences in Culture, US and India Fall Short in Childbirth in Similar Ways

8 Simple Ways to Provide Free Menstrual Products to Girls and Women in Need

Every 28 days, millions of girls and women in developing countries miss school or work – up to 50 days per year – because they lack access to affordable menstrual products. And, it’s not just a problem in poor countries. Right here in the United States, women and girls who lack means often need both menstrual health education and reusable menstrual products.

The eight companies and organizations provide menstrual products in the United States and in Africa. Here are ways you can help them on their missions to provide women and girls with products that simply make their lives easier.

  1. AfriPads Foundation: If you would like to ensure that a girl in Africa receives a full year menstrual kit, you can donate monthly, yearly, or just once. AfriPads are reusable pads manufactured in Africa that employs local Ugandan women. To support one girl for one year and ensure her school attendance the cost is only 5 Euros or $5.38 currently. Donate here: www.afripadsfoundation.org
  2. Aunt Flow: When you buy a subscription box of menstrual pads and tampons another subscription box will be donated to a beneficiary organization that provides menstrual relief for women and girls who need it. When you purchase your subscription box, you can choose the organization where your donated box will be gifted. You can choose monthly, 6 months and annual plans www.auntflow.org
  3. Conscious Period: If you exclusively use tampons, you might want to opt for alternative products other than the mass marketed ones you find in every drug and grocery store. Conscious Flow provides tampons that are exclusively created with 100% organic cotton with BPA-free applicators. For every box of Conscious Period tampons you buy, a box will also be gifted to a homeless woman in the United States. consciousperiod.com
  4. Glad Rags: A sustainably focused Oregon company that provides cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups, Glad Rags provides eco-friendly products for women and girls. Glad Rags gives back by working specifically with Untabooed, an organization that educates women and girls about menstrual health and provides reusable menstrual products to women in the New York City area.
    www.gladrags.com
  5. Huru International: For only $35 you can purchase a Huru International menstrual kit for a girl in Kenya or Tanzania. The kit includes eight reusable pads, 3 pairs of underwear, an infographic on proper sanitary pad usage, a waterproof bag to safely store used sanitary pads, soap to wash the sanitary pads and a life-skills educational booklet. Supporting Huru International not only allows girls to strive as they matriculate through school, but also supports its employees in its manufacturing facility in Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya. www.huruinternational.org
  6. Luna Pads’ One 4 Her Program: Girls in schools in low- and middle-income countries tend to stay home from school when they begin to menstruate. Their periods become especially hard to manage because many cannot afford pads or even tampons. And, even if they can, frequently changing their pad is very difficult as boys and girls often share the same bathroom facilities. When shopping at Luna Pads, a company that creates sustainable alternatives to disposable menstrual products, your purchase provides a cloth menstrual pad for a girl in need through their partnership with AfriPads. One4Her also provides menstrual health education and employment opportunities for Ugandan women. lunapads.com/one4her
  7. Ruby Cup: One of the most well-known alternatives to reuable tampons and menstrual pads is the Ruby Cup. It is eco-friendly and cost-effective menstrual pad. When you buy one Ruby Cup, one is donated to a girl in East Africa. The Ruby Cup also allows a young girl to wear it during their period without the panic of running out of tampons or pads and they don’t have to throw it away contributing to more waste in their communities. www.rubycup.com
  8. SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises): SHE has created an innovative way for banana farmers in Rwanda to use the banana husks they discard to produce menstrual pads for girls. SHE provides both jobs for workers, pads for Rwandan girls in schools, and also menstrual education. You can donate directly to SHE to support their efforts in Rwanda. sheinnovates.com

Photo: Jennifer James
School girls in Zambia conducting a reproductive health class with their peers

Video: The Global Gag Rule Explained

More than likely you have heard about the Global Gag Rule also known as the Mexico City Policy this week. You can learn more about it in a previous post: Why the Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality.

To get right to the point, however, Planned Parenthood released this video: What is the Global Gag Rule that explains it succinctly.

Why The Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality

Throughout my visits to clinics in Africa I have seen the work of Marie Stopes International in South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia as well as Zambia. They provide a full range of quality reproductive health services for women. I have always been impressed by the comprehensive care they provide. Now, their work will be hampered because of an imposed policy of the new administration.

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Marie Stopes International health worker I met in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Jennifer James

Yesterday morning President Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, that prevents international NGOs that accept USAID (taxpayer) money from advocating for the legalization of abortions, provide abortions, mention the word, or even refer women to health practionioners that provide safe, legal abortions.

The Global Gag Rule was instated during the Reagan admininstration in 1984 and since then there has been a virtual seesaw effect between Republican and Democratic administrations regarding whether the Rule is reinstated or revoked. According to the WHO, 78,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. Under Obama’s eight year administration, that number was reportedly decreased by more than half. Now, that President Trump has signed this executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule, the fear among the global health community is that that number will rapidly skyrocket again.

Continue reading Why The Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality