'If you save mothers, you save the world'. I'm not sure who said that, but they had it right. The focus this week of the Count Your Blessings Christian Aid calendar is 'equality' and specifically gender equality. Today is about maternal health - or rather - maternal death.
When I was pregnant with our first child, I was young and healthy, with access to good quality maternity services. I never thought I could die during pregnancy, childbirth or post-partum. As it turned out, I nearly did. Immediately after the delivery my husband was warned that both I and our first-born son might not survive the night. We both lived and flourished. I am now awaiting the imminent birth of our 6th grandchild in a good maternity hospital. I expect both mother and baby to live, but am aware that things can go wrong.
In the UK the maternal mortality ratio in 2008 was 8.2 per 100,000 births according to a study in the Lancet reported here. The UK figures have hardly changed at all since 1990 which is not good news. We trail behind other 22 other developed nations.
In Guatemala in 2008 the ratio was 88.3 which is dreadful, but it is an improvement on 177.6 of 1990, which is good news, but clearly there is still a long way to go. Midwives for midwives give much higher figures for Guatemala, particularly for indigenous Mayan women. According to Christian Aid only 41% of births in Guatemala are attended by a professional. You can read about Christian Aid's work with partner organisations in Guatemala here.
One of the Millennium Development Goals is about improving maternal health, including between 1990 and 2015 reducing by 75% the maternal mortality ratio and to increase the proportion of births attended by skilled professionals.
Christian Aid suggests you give 50p if your local hospital has a maternity ward. It does so I will. I think they should also have suggested giving 50p if community midwives are available in your area for home visits and home births. They are so I will.