By Kate Grant
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 07/03/2010 08:00:00 PM PDT
If you're a mother-to-be in the United States, one of your rites of passage on your way to a safe delivery is to attend a childbirth class. During the class I took, the discussion at times seemed fixated on the goal of "natural" childbirth, meaning, of course, drug-free labor. I did exercises like holding an ice cube while counting to 60 and being taught to breathe deeply.
I have to admit, little of that diligent training worked with me. After 10 hours of labor, and literally unbearable pain that felt nothing like holding an ice cube, I pleaded for drugs. My son was born healthy by cesarean section 12 hours later.
Had I been like the majority of women in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, I would have delivered at home, without a trained attendant and postpartum care for my son. Forget the painkilling meds. Forget the C-section, and likely forget giving birth to a healthy child. The result: more than 300,000 maternal deaths, and the deaths of 3.5 million newborns.
The biggest threat to the lives of teenage girls and young women in the developing world is pregnancy and childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, a woman living in sub-Saharan Africa faces a lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy of 1 in 16. And for every woman who dies, another 20 suffer from illness and disability, like obstetric fistula, that without surgery to repair it leaves its victims incontinent social outcasts.
The tragedy does not end there. The children of these mothers are much more likely to die, too.
Read more: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15423268?nclick_check=1
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