MIDWIFERY CARE FOR MOTHERS AND BABIES IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
“My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6
In the developing world, approximately 800 mothers die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of these deaths are caused by severe bleeding, infection, complications related to high blood pressure, medically induced abortion, and common diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition, lack of prenatal care, and lack of health education are primary contributors to the causes of maternal death in the developing world.
Approximately 10,958 newborn babies die world-wide every day: 4 million per year. (This number does not include miscarriages, still-births, or medically-induced abortions). ¾ of these deaths occur within the first week of life, and more than ¼ within the first 24 hours after birth. Neonatal mortality is caused by complications related to preterm birth, severe infections (including sepsis and pneumonia), tetanus, diarrhea, and complications of asphyxia as well as congenital anomalies. Again, malnutrition, lack of prenatal care, and lack of health education contribute to these causes of neonatal death in the developing world.
How can we reduce the number of maternal and neonatal deaths in the developing world?
The World Health Organization’s millennial development goals speak to this issue. The Eight Millennium Development Goals are:
1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
2 to achieve universal primary education;
3 to promote gender equality and empower women;
4 to reduce child mortality;
5 to improve maternal health;
6 to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7 to ensure environmental sustainability; and to develop a global partnership for development.
8 develop a global partnership for development
As the WHO notes: “The MDGs are inter-dependent; all the MDG influence health, and health influences all the MDGs. For example, better health enables children to learn and adults to earn. Gender equality is essential to the achievement of better health. Reducing poverty, hunger and environmental degradation positively influences, but also depends on, better health.” Midwives are essential to the fulfillment of these goals. In order to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, the World Health Organization advocates the training and deployment of midwives.
Midwives are less costly to educate and train than doctors. Midwives are more cost-efficient than hospitals, which are generally very expensive to build and rarely willing to provide care to impoverished families without payment made in advance. They are also more mobile than hospitals, so they are better able to get to families in need in remote locations. Midwives can often provide gender-specific, culturally sensitive care within their communities. Skilled midwives know how to diagnose and treat the major causes of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. In other words, midwives know how to save lives.
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
I am committed to serving as a Christian midwife in the developing world and to supporting others who do so. I am also committed to serving childbearing families in the U.S. from the developing world, living in poverty, or experiencing the need for a caring midwife during the childbearing year. One of the greatest joys of my life is serving families in childbirth.