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KDHW: Making Pregnancy and Childbirth Safer in Burma / Myanmar's Conflict Zones

MAE SOT, 17 October 2011 (IRIN) - In conflict-afflicted eastern Myanmar, until recently obstetric care was often crude, unsterile and dangerous for both mother and child, health experts say.

When labour pains began, traditional birth attendants routinely pushed the woman's stomach, sometimes injuring or killing the baby; others used sharp slivers of bamboo, which had been cleaned with charcoal, to cut the umbilical cord, leading to deadly infections.

Saving Mothers' Lives

At midnight in the rugged jungle of eastern Myanmar, a village headman’s young daughter was in labor, lying on a mat in the small hut she shared with her husband. She was petite and anemic from malnutrition and a history of malaria. A traditional birth attendant, an older woman relying on experience and local remedies, was by her side. The baby finally emerged, a healthy squalling boy. But the placenta did not come out, and the situation quickly turned dire as the new mother began to bleed heavily.

Reproductive Health in Myanmar: The MOM Project

Women in eastern Myanma face enormous risks having children: the vast majority are anemic and deliver their babies without trained assistance or access to emergency obstetric services. Nearly 1% of pregnancies result in maternal death, mostly from bleeding after delivery or infection — one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.

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