As Mother’s Day approaches, our thoughts rightly turn to our own mums and how grateful we are for everything they do for us. For me, as I’ve gotten older its about the little things she does for me, like cutting articles out of the paper for me and making sure my favourite breakfast cereal is in the cupboard when I’m back at home for a visit. Just a couple of examples of a mother’s thoughtfulness and enduring support.
Very few of us will be thinking about the actual day that we were born and what our mums went through on that day in order to bring us into the world. I couldn’t tell you how long my mum was in labour for when she had me or who was in the room. I’ve not yet had children of my own and that’s perhaps why I’ve never thought to ask her what it was like. How did she feel when she went into the delivery room? Was she scared? Was she excited?
Thankfully, what I do know is that my mum would have been well looked after that day. She had a trained midwife, she was in a hospital and that hospital had the right drugs, equipment and staff on hand if there was an emergency.
I have just finished writing Missing Midwives, a Save the Children report for mother’s day that highlights the global shortage of midwives, and over the last few weeks I have realised just what a luxury that level of care during childbirth is.
During my research I found that every year around 48 million women give birth without anyone in the room who knows exactly what to do if something goes wrong. I was shocked to learn that more than 2 million women deliver their babies completely alone, without even a friend or relative present. I had to triple check the figures as I found it inconceivable that in some countries, like Nigeria, one in five women gives birth on her own.
1.3 million lives could be saved every year
Around the world, hundreds of thousands of mothers and babies are dying every year from causes that carry a minimal risk in the UK because they can be managed by a midwife. Every year more than 800,000 babies die from asphyxia — being deprived of oxygen during birth — many of them because there isn’t a midwife there who knows to rub their back or their feet to stimulate them to cry or who can rescusitate them if they need help to breathe. New analysis that was done for the report shows that 1.3 million lives could be saved by midwives who were properly trained, equipped and supported.
To save the lives of these babies, world leaders in both rich and poor countries need to invest in recruiting, training, supporting and paying more midwives and making sure they are deployed where they are most needed. Filling the global shortage of midwives and other healthworkers is an urgent priority.
So this mother’s day, as well as remembering the card, the flowers and the words of thanks for your own mum, spare a thought for the 130,000 women every day who go through childbirth without a midwife and just what they have gone through to become a mum.