Friday, March 13, 2009

When Birth Means Death

I work with women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Some are happy, some are confused, some are horrified, some are in denial. Most of them (in our centre, at least) are not very well off financially. What's going through their minds? Perhaps something like: How will I tell my boyfriend? What will my parents think? Another mouth to feed? I was just starting to get well established in my job - I'll lose seniority! I can't handle another one. I don't want to go through another uncomfortable pregnancy. I don't want to get fat (I know, but it's a concern for some). What about college?

I've never heard this one though: Will this birth bring about a funeral? Am I going to die? How will my other children cope if I don't make it? Will my baby be born alive, and make it safely to it's first birthday?

The truth is that for many women, those are valid concerns. Death is as sure as birth, for all of us, but in some areas of the world, pregnancy and childbirth are risky occasions. While we Canadians are worrying about having to give up our second vehicles and where to buy the nursery linens, families in third world countries are dealing with the reality that maybe this new pregnancy will be the end of their family unit.

If I were to become a midwife, I must say that I'm not all that interested in practicing in Canada. It's not that midwifery isn't needed here. It is. It's just that for a Canadian woman, birth is about choices. In third world countries, it's about life and death.

Here are some stats about maternal mortality:
The number in italics is the Maternal Mortality Ratio (maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). The number in bold is the Lifetime risk of death (1 in ?).

For example, in Canada, statistics say that the percentage of moms dying from childbirth related problems is .00007% In her lifetime, a woman would have a 1 in 11,000 chance of dying from childbirth related problems.

Afghanistan - 1800****8
Canada - 7****11,000
Cuba - 45****1400
Ireland - 1****47,600
Japan - 6****11,600
Niger - 1800****7
Philippines - 230****140
Sierra Leonne - 2100****8
United States - 11****4,800

Here's the rest of the info, more complete:
It's an eye opener.

No comments: