Safe Motherhood Isn't Just for Kate Middleton: The Importance of Maternal Health for Every Mother, Everywhere

Mother in Viet Nam

Judy Kahrl is a long-time Pathfinder supporter and Emeritus Advisor who has visited Pathfinder's work around the world.

Last week, as I heard the cheers of joy for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the birth of their little boy, I also thought about the women giving birth in the developing world. Who was caring for them? Did they have trained birth attendants? Who cheered loudly when their babies were born?

Memories of my travels with Pathfinder International flooded back. I’ve seen things that I will never forget.

What if your life is in danger and the only way to reach a doctor is to be carried down a steep mountain path in a stretcher made of poles and a blanket?

In Peru, I met a mother named Antonia who had experienced exactly that. She was seven months pregnant and experiencing pain and excessive bleeding. When Antonio finally arrived at the hospital, a Pathfinder-trained doctor was there to perform an emergency cesarean section. While they were unable to save her baby, Antonia survived and was able to return home to her two daughters, both under the age of five.

Or imagine you are just 14, lying alone in a ward for adolescent mothers.

At Peru's largest maternity hospital, I saw this girl. No one sat at her bedside. Who would help her when she left the hospital? I wondered. It was a poignant reminder of why Pathfinder works closely within health systems and communities to support young mothers.

Sometimes my memories—like this one from Viet Nam—make me smile.

Even in the most challenging of environments, Pathfinder seeks to serve these women and their newborns by training local health providers in how to follow safe delivery practices.Just before we made our visit to a maternity hospital, Pathfinder-trained staff had safely delivered a baby to a young woman in a maternal hospital. During our visit, she held her new baby in bed, her mother proudly smiling at her side. Her delivery had gone very well. It looked as though she would be supported when she left the hospital by the baby’s happy grandmother.

Even in the most challenging of environments, Pathfinder seeks to serve these women and their newborns by training local health providers in how to follow safe delivery practices. Those health providers are incredibly dedicated and take great pride in their work. In rural Tanzania, I met a nurse’s assistant who had received Pathfinder training on managing postpartum hemorrhage. I will never forget the pride with which she shared the story of saving a mother’s life thanks to her new knowledge about risks and danger signs. Stories like these are one of the many reasons that I support Pathfinder’s work.

Like so many others, I was thrilled to hear that both the Duchess of Cambridge and her new son received such excellent care and that the delivery was safe and successful. I believe that mothers and children everywhere deserve to be born into families who plan their births, and to mothers who will be cared for by trained birth attendants.

In light of one safe delivery, let’s pledge to a safe delivery for every mother, everywhere. The cheers may not be as loud as for British royalty, but the hopes for a healthy life for the baby and mother are just as strong!

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