Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Giving birth in Uganda

I have a friend who just had to deliver a baby unexpectedly here in Uganda. Her story is shocking to us in the west, but really very normal here. I thought all of you would like to see what it is like for women, not priveledged to live in the 1st world, to give birth.

The woman (who is a native and works for my friend) went into labor and had alreay planned on having the baby at the main government hospital in Kampala. They gathered her "bag"( a piece of plastic, razor blade, rubber gloves and blanket for baby) and raced off to the hospital with my friend in her car.
Upon entering the maternity ward they were greeted with 40 women laying on the floor in all different stages on labor. On the ward was 1 male nurse not trained in midwifery. If the women make any noise in labor they are told to be quiet. Some have moms or friends with them, others are alone.
My friend was helping her lady waiting for a doctor or midwife to come and the lady laying on the floor beside her started screaming and she could see the head coming out. So right there the baby was born, premature barely breathing. Most babies in Uganda are born premature and no hospital private or public has the equiptment to save them. They either struggle to survive or they die. This baby was taken away from the mom and returned a few minutes later dead. No comforting, just brought back and handed to her and told it was dead. She then had to get herself up cleaned off and leave to make room on the floor for the next woman. Whatever spilled off of the plastic,(blood, afterbirth, water) left on the floor and the next woman and piece of plastic laid down.
In the meantime my friends lady had started crowning and still no doctor or midwife. The head came out with the cord wrapped around the neck. She had no idea what to do and yelled at the nurse to help. He stayed where he was and told her what to do from a distance. She eventually delivered a healthy baby girl. She was told to take her gloves off and take the razor blade and cut the cuffs off and use the peices of rubber to tie off the cord. She cut the gloves and placed them on the cord and then proceeded to cut the cord with the razor blade. That done and the placenta delivered the mom had to get up, pick up her things and move to the hall where she spent the night, again on the floor till morning when she had to leave.
This is the best public hopsital in Kampala. No beds, very little staff, no food, no blankets, pillows or supplies for the mom or baby. Forget medication too.
The ladies in the village have it a bit different. They lay banana leaves on the ground and deliver the baby outside on them. They don't have gloves and most of the time no razor blade, so they either use sharp stones or bite throught the cord to get it off. No doctor there to sew them up if they tear either. Then after all that they are expected to get up and go back to work.
Sound like fun? No wonder the death rate among infants and new mothers are so high. There are organizations here who donate clean scissors, a piece of plastic and gloves to rural areas and the death rate among infants and new moms are cut in half with just those three things.


Brandi said...

Oh my dear! That just breaks my heart. I can't even imagine. I gave birth in a birth center and went home a few hours later, but with tons of help, a bed to lie in and major doses of tylenol! If you guys put together a campaign to get help any village please let us know!

You can't give us that info without a way to help!!!


steffany said...

I ditto everything Brandi said.
How can we help?