What Will World Leaders Do for Mothers?

7.1.10: 2010 G8 Summit


Women confront a lot of fears during pregnancy and childbirth. The worries I hear about most are: 1. pain 2. baby’s health during birth and 3. mom’s health during birth.

This is not based on scientific study. This is based on listening to mothers talk. I think doctors might flip that priority list around completely; with mom’s health coming in at #1, baby’s health #2 and pain a distant 3rd place. Without a healthy mom, we won’t have a healthy baby and pain…well, it sucks but its just pain and it’s survivable. Women’s personal experiences and fears however, speak more loudly than data and studies.

Women are afraid of labor pain even when they know there are epidurals and narcotics readily available. It’s a tangible place to hang their overarching fears of being hurt while giving birth. They worry that a childbirth emergency will threaten their baby’s or their own wellbeing even when they’re delivering in a well-equipped hospital with well-trained staff. Some of that comes from respect and fear of the unknown, which is part of being pregnant and part of what bonds us as women. Some of it comes from feeling out of control and at risk for being manipulated and taken advantage of. Some of it comes from a real fear that they or their baby could die. Women all over the world worry about the same things, whether they’re a healthy American or from a small village in a developing country.

What else are women universally worried about? Privacy and dignity, IVs and urinary catheters, pooping while pushing, bleeding and infection. They’re worried that breastfeeding will hurt and they won’t make enough milk, that their stomachs will never be the same again, their baby won’t be cute and their husband will be grossed out. They wonder: What if my baby doesn’t like me? What if he/she doesn’t like his/her name? What if I find out, I am a bad Mom? What if I’m never the same person I was before pregnancy? What if, what if, what if? It all boils down to vulnerability and respect for the unknown.

What can we do to alleviate these fears and bolster respect for all women’s awesome power? We can care about them, listen to them and make birth safe, both physically and emotionally. It’s not that hard to do. We have the technology, skills and medicine. All we need now is education, opportunity, action and money.

Last week world governmental leaders attending the 2010 G8 Summit in Canada tackled the subject of maternal and child health, addressing women’s universal fears and vulnerabilities. Their goal was to highlight solutions to prevent nearly 9 million children and 350,000 pregnant women and new mothers from dying each year despite the existence of proven, low-cost, low-tech means to save most of them. But those solutions cost money.

Humanitarian organizations like CARE asked world leaders to allocate $30 billion dollars over the next five years for maternal/child health programs. That’s what it is speculated to cost to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals # 4 and 5 for alleviating poverty by 2015.

When the summit was over, Canada committed to providing 1.1 billion. The US, UK and others committed 3.9 billion. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion (you guys totally rock) and .8 billion has been promised by other non-G8 countries and private foundations, including South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, the U.N. Foundation.

While all that sounds like a huge chunk of change, it’s nowhere near enough to do the job right. CARE and other organizations are kind of disappointed in our leaders. They’re trying to remain optimistic that the world really does want to put its money where its mouth is. They’re pleading with G8 nations to come back and fill the remaining funding gap when the world gathers for the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York in September 2010.

Here’s what I have to say to our leaders: Ladies and gentlemen? Do you love your mothers? Do you really care if they survive childbirth with their lives and dignity intact? How about your children? Do you love them too? Enough to help them live through their births and early childhood? What’s that you say? Yes? You love your mothers and children? Then take care of them. Bottom line – take care of them.

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Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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