I am the first to admit that I live my life pretty much oblivious to anything except my immediate family, friends and work context. I am reasonably attune to what's going on in the midwifery world in New Zealand and countries such as the UK and Australia. On the whole I have been oblivious to what is going on in developing countries with regards to childbirth.
Social networking raising my awareness
But my awareness of the problems faced by my midwifery colleagues and birthing women has increased over the last few months. This has come about as I have used social networking tools to connect with individuals and midwifery networks in developing countries.
The torture of birthing women in the Dominican Republic
It is through one of my midwifery networks that I came across Stacey Sheer, who is a midwife trying to raise awareness about what is happening to birthing women in the Dominican Republic. Stacey has written to the World Health Organization pleading for conditions for women to be improved, especially by improving obstetric and midwifery education. Stacey says:
I am still in shock from the horror of the behaviors I witnessed in this countries public hospital. The standard of care for a laboring woman is this:
Laboring women, labor in one room with sixteen beds and sometimes three women to a bed at a time. There are no clean sheets or chux on these beds, they are in their street clothes, body fluids are expelled on the floor or on the bed, all waste products are released in the bed or on the floor by the side while they labor. The women are not given food or water to drink.
She goes onto say:
One day I witnessed an intern cut a woman on both sides and a third time into the rectum; the head was not even visible and no one took a heart tone. This woman was left with a gaping hole in her pelvic floor which words cannot describe.
I witnessed the doctor opening the scissors to find they had blood on them from another woman. She called for a nurse and none came; she used them anyway to cut this woman.
After the baby is forced out of the woman's severely compromised vagina, the doctors immediately clamp and cut the umbilical cord depriving the baby of its blood. The baby is whisked away to another room and the doctor immediately pulls on the cord of the still attached placenta until the woman hemorrhages and the placenta is expelled. Three times in one hour I witnessed projectile expression of copious amounts of blood at this pulling.
What can I do?
I do not normally sign petitions or pass on stories like this. And to be honest, I don't have any real idea about what I can do. So I am re-telling this story to make you mindful of what goes on in some areas of the world, and express my support for Stacey's campaign.
If you wish to hear more about Stacey's experiences and show her your support, please contact her at stacy.sheer(at)gmail.com