When there is no choice.

photo of women in Mozambique with babies by Andrea Hsu/NPR

All Things Considered, on NPR,  is running a series on the state of maternal care around the world called Beginnings-Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond.  The segment today was about Mozambique, in sub-Saharan Africa.  Michelle Block of ATC, travelled and explored Mozambique to witness the experiences of mothers and babies and the conditions under which they give birth.  The segment brought tears to my eyes and also served as a poignant reminder of how much we have here in our country.  While we can point to many disparities in birthing and maternal and infant care in our country, including the high rate of C-Sections, we live and birth under conditions which are generally safe and clean.  We give birth to babies who usually grow up and become adults.  In Mozambique, that is not the case.  The statistics are startling:

“In her lifetime, a Mozambican woman has a 1 in 37 chance of dying during pregnancy or within a short time after a pregnancy has ended. One in 10 children won’t live past the first year. One in 7 dies before reaching the age of 5.”

These are horrible statistics!  Most women do not birth in medical facilities, nor are they assisted by a skilled health worker.  Many are simply attended to by a relative or a friend.  In the countryside, many babies are born in small mud huts.  If there is an emergency, there is very little recourse.  There is no skilled nurse.  There is no option for an emergency C-Section. 

“In the countryside, more than half the babies born are delivered like Belita’s was: not in a health facility, but at home. The women are often attended by a relative or friend, but not by a skilled health worker. The risks are great for both mother and child.”

While all of this sounds depressing an awful, and it is, there are efforts underway to bring about positive change.  There are efforts underway to train skilled health care workers.  There are efforts underway to educate.  Even in Mozambique, with a terrible patient to doctor ratio at the very few hospitals available,  nurses are being trained to perform emergency C-Sections, hysterectomies and treat ectopic pregnancies. 

“So nurses like Simbini have been trained to perform emergency surgery: She can do C-sections and hysterectomies. She can operate to treat ectopic pregnancies or sepsis. All these things that the U.S. health system would consider the exclusive province of a doctor, she can do as a nurse.”

 Education and outreach are some ways to help.  There are many organizations out there trying to help people and improve their situation and way of life.  It is daunting.  I know there are many cynics.   Perhaps it is the yogi in me.  I care.  I think it will help to just simply open up the conversation and shed light on the state of maternal care, even if it just opens our eyes to it or helps us imagine what it would be like to be in such a dire situation.  Though on the surface,  it is very much a woman’s issue, it is really all of our issue.  It is the way we are born into this world.  When we explore the disparities, we appreciate what we have.  I cannot help but see what others do not have and be grateful for what I have.  It is humbling.   The words from the U2 song, “Crumbs From Your Table”, come to mind: 

“Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die”

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© mahamamas.com and Janet MacFarlane, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janet MacFarlane and Mahamamas.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Janet MacFarlane is a Yoga Alliance registered teacher at 500 hours, with a specialty in  prenatal yoga.  Janet is also a Certified Prenatal Fitness Educator with ICEA.


2 thoughts on “When there is no choice.

  1. It is so important to give the right training to the right people in a local community! Coming from a cultural psych background, I think the power is all in the people – what they know, how they apply it. One amazing nurse/doctor, from and in that community, can do so much good.

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