Heavy bleeding, high blood pressure, pre-term labor, gestational
diabetes -- all these can endanger the health of pregnant women and
their babies. In most cases, medical intervention can save lives --
if it comes in time. In many places, it doesn't.
One of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals is to
reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio. According to
its 2012 progress report, in "developing" countries the number of
maternal deaths per 100,000 live births dropped to 240 in 2010 from
440 in 1990. Significant improvement, but this compares to 12.7
deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States. And in some
countries, the figure is far worse. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the
average remains 500.
There is still so much to do.
Many maternal deaths are preventable with fairly basic medical
care. Taking a pregnant woman's blood pressure and checking her
weight throughout her pregnancy can alert health care providers to
potential life-threatening conditions early enough to address them.
But even these simple measures are often impossible due to a lack of
basic medical resources -- blood pressure cuffs, scales,
thermometers, stethoscopes, gloves.
In addition, in many resource-poor communities, pregnant women
live too far from an equipped medical center to make prenatal care a
practical reality. They may have to walk miles to a clinic or travel
by boat, leaving their other children behind. Arduous travel may be
impossible in the later months of pregnancy. At certain times of the
year, roads become impassable even for foot traffic. Sometimes the
trip is simply too costly.
There is also a more insidious and complicated obstacle to women
receiving care: In many cultures, a woman must have permission from
her husband to seek medical attention -- permission that is not
always granted in a timely fashion, if at all.
The results of unattended births, especially when there has been
no prenatal care, often include dead or injured mothers and dead or
injured infants. Fistulas -- holes in the vaginal canal -- due to
traumatic deliveries are common and can kill babies or cause
paralysis and infections in mothers.
Despite these challenges, Global Links and its partners are
helping to address access to care by equipping hospitals and
birthing centers in resource-poor communities in Latin America and
the Caribbean with the medical equipment and materials they need for
pregnant women and newborns. …