We talk a lot about birth choices in this country. Medicated versus unmedicated, home versus hospital, c-section versus vaginal. What we often forget is how lucky we are to be able to have all these choices and be secure in the knowledge that no matter what we choose, our birth likely will be safe, in a clean, if not sterile, environment, and will result in mother and baby being healthy at the end of the process. Barring massive, unforseeable events during labor, we won’t die.
We are lucky indeed. Many women are not so lucky. They will give birth in unsafe conditions and will face a high risk of sustaining an injury or infection that will sicken or kill them in the days following the birth of her baby.
Every minute a women dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations. For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections, which are often preventable. (Source: World Health Organization.)
In rural Papua New Guinea, 1 in 7 women die in childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 women die of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The risk of dying as a result of pregnancy if you live in the industrialized world stands at 1 in 4,100. (Source: Maternal mortality in 2005. Estimated developed by WHO, UNICEF,UNFPA and The World Bank. World Health Organization, 2007)
It is possible for each and every one of us to help prevent maternal death in the developing world simply by stepping up and providing a clean birth kit for a mother who needs it. And this Mothers Day, Bloggers for Birth Kits are organizing to do just that.
According to Adriel who writes the blog The Mommyhood Memos and the powerhouse behind Bloggers for Birth Kits, infection following delivery remains a leading cause of death among both mothers and newborns. This risk can be mitigated. Both maternal and neonatal infection rates have been proven to decrease if women are given access to the most basic elements of medical sanitation while birthing: soap, a length of clean string to tie the umbilical cord, a clean razor blade to cut the umbilical cord and a clean, plastic sheet on which to deliver.
Bloggers for Birth Kits is working to bring clean birth kits to women in need. A clean birth kit includes:
1. Soap (for the birth attendant to wash her hands). Use a hotel-size soap or cut a regular bar of soap into 1/8-sized pieces. (Microwave the bar of soap for 30 seconds to soften it for cutting).
2. One pair of plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).
3. Five squares of gauze (to wipe the mum’s perineum and baby’s eyes). Gauze pieces should be about 10×10 centimeters or 3×3 inches.
4. One blade (to cut the cord). You can buy individually wrapped sterile blades at the pharmacist or buy utility blades (much cheaper) at the hardware store. We teach the women to boil the blades for sterilization, so utility blades work just fine.
5. Three pieces of string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”). String should be about 30 centimeters or 10 inches long.
6. One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 meter or 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.
7. One sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).
You can make your own birth kit or make a cash donations to Bloggers for Birth Kits by going to this site (donation instructions are at the bottom!) . You can also donate to World Birth Aid, an non-profit that provides birth kits for women in Africa by clicking here. In either case, you’ll be contributing to the care of a mother who deserves a safe, clean birth.
Photo credit: The Mommyhood Memos