By Kara Blackburn
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Eighty percent of all maternal deaths globally can be attributed to five basic risks. Let's do more to treat hemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor.
(WOMENSENEWS)--While working in remote Papua New Guinea last year with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres my team and I heard about a woman who'd recently died giving birth to twins. So we immediately left to check up on the newborn children. While there, we came upon another woman who was also in labor and carrying twins. After learning that she'd already had one stillbirth, we transferred her to our hospital.
After a difficult and protracted delivery, two healthy baby boys arrived safely. Then what should have been a remarkable moment turned into a medical emergency. Because there is a higher risk of bleeding after the delivery of twins, the young mother started to hemorrhage and lost over a quart of blood.
We managed to control her bleeding with intravenous fluids and drugs. But without this medical care, this woman would have lost a lot more blood and might not have survived.
As a midwife, I have witnessed firsthand the immense challenges women face and have had the privilege of providing care in places such as Sudan's Darfur, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. After seeing the direct benefits of emergency obstetric care, I grieve for all the women around the world who aren't getting it. In most developing countries access to health care is limited and few women get the emergency assistance they need during pregnancy and at the time of birth.
In Papua New Guinea that day, one woman's life was saved while another's was lost--the difference being that the second woman had practical medical solutions available to her.
On this Mother's Day, let's remember that 1,000 women still tragically die every day in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications that are preventable with skilled clinicians, drugs and equipment. Maternal death is an ongoing crisis, but it is an avoidable crisis and it deserves our attention.
To make an immediate difference, the focus has to be on the main causes: hemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor. These account for over 80 percent of all maternal deaths globally. In our emergency obstetric units, we can provide care for these complications in a range of high-risk settings.
In the countries where Doctors Without Borders works, in places like South Sudan, Haiti, or Pakistan, our expectations are relatively simple: concretely reduce the number of deaths we see in our clinics and hospitals by addressing the immediate needs of pregnant women in crisis situations. The medical approaches we use have been available for a long time, and it is abundantly clear from our experience in the field that maternal deaths can be av