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Reality Check: The Childbirth Plight in Sierra Leone

The childbirth injury rate in the United States is far higher than some might suspect. In particular, the mortality rate for mothers in our country is higher than most other developed nations. Some attribute this to lack of prenatal care as well as an increase in the number of “risky” births that are attempted here as opposed to elsewhere. This includes birth to mothers who are older or have serious medical conditions. In addition, more births are attempted for children who have known problems or are born prematurely. All of this may skew the statistics. However, even for our difficulties and the need to improve on this front, the reality is that the risk of injury to mother or child in the U.S. is nowhere near as strong as in some of the less developed places in the world.

For example, a recent Huffington Post article delved into the tragic plight in Sierra Leone–the riskiest place for mothers in childbirth. The story notes how, unbelievably, one in eight women in the country die during childbirth. This is the highest such rate in the world. The author notes that one of the main problems invovles lack of access to acute care in the aftermath of serious birthing complications. Most of us in the developed world, with stocked birthing rooms, highly trained professionals, and immediate access to care, forget that hundreds of millions do not have these things.

Helping with Childbirth Injuries Abroad
The article also took some time out to identify those who are working tirelessly to help. For exampe, one retired doctor, was spending almost all of his time (and financial savings) performing hundreds of emergency surgeries for women who suffer complications during childbirth. The doctor focuses on an injury known as a “fistula.” This affects many mothers across the world, and refers to a situation where there is a tear in the vaginal canal. When not corrected, the tear can lead to a wide range of very serious, even life-threatening predicaments. In the United States, mothers who suffer a fistula usually have the problem corrected right away (unless an error is made). However, for those in the poorest countries, that immediate medical help is not available.

The goal of activits, volunteers, and medical professionals in the area is to change that. The story author noted, however, that one of the main challenges is fundraising. Many of these medical professionals have to spend considerable time raising money to fund the operations and less time performing the actual good work. That is why much recent effort has been focus on securing outside fundraising efforts that can filter to those doing the real, on-the-ground good works to help those in need. Without the burden of focusing on the ancillary task of fundraising, the hope is that these volunteer medical groups can focus on scaling their operations to help as many women as possible.

Pursuing access to reasonable medical care is a mission all of us can get behind. For those interested in learning more about the struggles in Sierra Leone and the work being done to help, please take a look at the website for Samahope, a new non-profit dedicated to helping these women who otherwise would face these challenges alone.

See Our Related Blog Posts:
Brachial Plexus Awareness Month

Risks from Vaginal Births Rarely Discussed