Mamas, you can make a difference-right from your beds!!
I know, you are probably thinking,
“What the heck could I possibly do? I’m on bed rest. I have all that I can handle right now.”
I hear you, mamas. I know that your utmost concern is first and foremost for your own health and for the health of your unborn child. But isn’t that what all mamas want??
This weekend I went to a clothing swap to raise funds for the “Train 1000 Midwives” program for the Edna University Hospital in Somaliland Africa. The Edna University Hospital was established in Hargeisa, Somaliland following the bloody, brutal civil war in Somalia. After the war, the newly established Republic of Somaliland was left with a war torn country and no public help or services. Edna Adan Ismail, former minister to Somaliland and current President of the Organization for Victims of Torture, is a leading activist for women’s health rights in Somaliland and she speaks vehemently against female genital circumcision/female genital mutilation. She established the University Hospital in the hopes that those trained there will return home to their native towns and villages and care for their people. The “Train 1000 Midwives” Program is a direct response to the extremely high rate of maternal and infant mortality in the region.
“Train 1000 Midwives” is one of the projects selected by Connecther.org for funding. Connecther.org’s vision and mission are:
Connecther seeks to end global poverty by partnering with donors, non-profits and other stakeholders that focus on aiding women and children in their quest for self reliance.
Connecther provides a platform for matching donors to projects that provide poverty alleviation services to women and children in their quest for self-reliance. Connecther helps our project partners raise funds and awareness via our communications & crowdfunding platforms insuring that Givers’ contributions are invested to make the biggest positive impact.
Connecther is an amazing organization and at it’s core is a group of women who have decided to come together and make a difference. It’s that simple. Women, more specifically Mamas, have come together and are essentially saying,
‘It’s no longer acceptable for women and girls to suffer and struggle. Those women and girls who are so inclined to do better we are going to help them by providing funds for necessary resources.’
It’s that simple to get involved. It’s that simple to be “Pro-Active”. The Clothing Swap was sponsored by The Lucky Penny Fund. Inspired by Half The Sky, a movement intent on exchanging women’s oppression into opportunity, friend and colleague Jessica Sunshine Christian started the Lucky Penny Fund as a way to learn more about the lives of women around the world and to help. She admits that she doesn’t have much to give, but she is willing to give from what she has-one penny at a time. Jessica and her partner Carmen pooled their energy and resources to organize the clothing swap. We each cleaned out our closets and for $25 essentially “went shopping”. Our donations went to the “Train 1000 Midwives” project via Connecther and the remaining items not swapped were donated to a local women’s shelter. This was win-win-win -win!!
So often we learn of events or people in the world and think, “That’s so sad” or, “That’s tragic”. Yet the moment passes because we feel impotent to effect change. Mamas can change the world and all of the organizations mentioned above are in existence because mamas have said, “Enough is enough! I may not be able to do much, but I can do what I can!!”
That’s all it takes! That’s what it means to be “Pro-Active!” So mamas, even if you are on bed rest, consider what you can do to ease the burden of another mama; donate funds, subscribe to a newsletter, volunteer, be a peer supporter (Lots of this on our Facebook Page!). Any little bit helps.
I have to confess, I’m having a moment of Geek. I received an article link from a former Mama on Bedrest and the Geek in me has been jumping up and down as I am reading it. Finally, researchers here in the United States are taking notice of the fact that intra partum maternal mortality rates are atrocious and they are doing something about it!
Now you are probably saying, “What has that got to do with me, a Mama on Bedrest?” Well, it has everything to do with you! It means that physicians, researchers and hospitals around the country are making changes to ensure that if you have a complication during your labor and delivery, you don’t die from it. In my book, that’s a pretty big deal!
Okay, this is not exactly a sexy topic. It’s not, “4 Ways to better prop yourself up on pillows while on bed rest,” or some other topic that is immediately associated with your current situation. It’s not soothing, it’s not comforting. Yet it’s extremely important. It’s the nuts and bolts of maternity care. Its looking at a grave situation-maternal mortality in the United States (which is worse than any other industrialized nation by the way and 3-4 times worse in African American women!)-and saying, “We’re going to fix this!!” The good thing is that when American physicians and researchers put their minds and energy into improving outcomes, things typically do improve! (Look at how care of preterm infants has vastly improved, assisted reproductive technology allows women to become pregnant in the first place, and all the advances in perinatal care if you want examples!)
So what is the article saying-Exactly?
The article is from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and asked the question, “Why are so many US women dying during childbirth?” The doctors and researchers in this article, all from the St. Louis Missouri area, began looking closely at cases of maternal intra partum death and came up with the following reasons and solutions:
- Preconception counseling or at least very early prenatal counseling is important-especially in women with pre-existing conditions and/or riskfactors for complications.
- Pregnancy has become increasingly risky because of the prevalence of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease; more older women having children; advancements in fertility treatments resulting in twin births; and the high rate of C-sections. All of these issues must be addressed early and aggressively, from start to finish during pregnancy.
- Researchers and high-risk pregnancy specialists say an important step is stratifying maternity care, parallel to what has been adopted in the care of high-risk newborns. Higher-level hospitals would have the specialists and infrastructure needed to take care of complex (maternal health) cases, help institute guidelines to improve care, and consult with lower-level hospitals on complex cases. They note that often a mama and her baby are transferred to another hospital to care for a sick, fragile infant, forgetting that the infant is ill because the mama is also in poorer health. Care must start with mama!!
- Physicians and hospitals must be continually evaluating their outcomes and making adjustments to improve care. Complication protocols must be instituted and everyone must be trained in these protocols. Doctors and staff who fail to comply must be “reined in.”
- What hospitals can also do, many say, is promote spontaneous, vaginal births — the safest for mothers and babies. One procedure or drug increases the risk for another, often causing a cascade of interventions that ends with a C-section. In the U.S., the C-section rate has skyrocketed to 33 percent of all births. The World Health Organization says it should be closer to 15 percent.
- Consider using more Midwives and for uncomplicated births. Their low-tech approach has been shown to reduce C-section rates and improve other health outcomes.
- More research and study needed to understand the causes and treatments of potentially catastrophic maternal conditions. Even if a complication is rare, there should be protocols in place every part of the health care team should be educated on the condition and the protocol and know what to do in the event of a catastrophic event.
- Statewide maternal mortality review committees (and a national registry??) made up of key players in prenatal, childbirth and postpartum care are being instituted. Committees regularly review deaths to gain insight on warning signs, prevention and treatments. Such committees exist in Illinois and Missouri and the Illinois committee is the model for several other committees forming around the country. Federal legislation proposed two years ago to beef up state maternal mortality committees stalled, but nationally, there is a bigger effort around improving care than there ever has been before by government, doctors groups and researchers.
The wheels of change are slowly turning and finally there is emphasis on the health of mamas! I’ve said my goal is to put myself out of business. Hopefully with these changes in maternity care, that desire is not long off!
As such I watch, with utter disgust, the Texas legislature cut and defund programs that have significant impact on women and children. The mantra here in “The Great State of Texas” is that “We pull ourselves up by our own boot straps and we take care of our own.” The sad truth is that those who can afford boots may in fact be able to pull themselves up by the straps, but for many hardworking Texans, it’s a struggle to make it from day to day and Texas is not doing a very good job of “taking care of its own.”
What many hardworking Texans don’t know is that with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) there are federal funds available for each state to utilize so that they can increase the number of citizens who have access to health care. The funds typically go to support Medicare and Medicaid programs. Texas Governor Rick Perry is on the record as vehemently opposing the ACA and has vowed not to accept any federal funds. By rejecting these funds, Governor Perry ensures that some 6.1 million Texans remain uninsured.
Now I am in favor of everyone having his or her own opinion about government and the law. However, I think that when you are in a position of authority and you are making decisions for the general population, you need to step back from your personal views and look at what will be in the best interest of the greater population. Governor Perry and many Republicans vehemently oppose the ACA. However, it is the law and as such, there are provisions within the law that actually benefit a lot of people. In particular, the fact that the federal government has set aside funds so that the individual states can access these funds and use them to insure and care for their constituents is a good thing. Stubbornly denying the funds because you, a wealthy and well insured government official, have a philosophical difference with the government (okay, let’s be frank, the President!), and will as a result deny help to millions of your constituents is deplorable.
So why am I bringing this up on Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond? Because here in Texas, we have a large number of mamas who are either under-insured (their policies don’t cover maternity care) or they are uninsured. Texas also has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the United States and these rates are even higher for mamas of color. Women should not have to decide between keeping a roof over their heads and whether or not to start a family. The two should not be mutually exclusive. Mamas (and any children that they may have) need health care coverage and Texas Medicaid is struggling. Federal funds could go far in assuring that many hardworking Texans have access to safe, quality health care. A common misconception is that people on Medicaid are slackers, sitting about waiting for a handout. While this may in fact be true of some of the people receiving Medicaid benefits, there are just as many hard working people working low paying jobs that don’t provide (health care) benefits. These folks deserve to have access to quality health care.
But there are some really great folks out there working to ensure that all Texans, but mamas and babies in particular, have access to quality health care. In a bold move, Mamas of Color Rising has started MamaSana, an all volunteer free pregnancy clinic here in Austin. Mamas of Color Rising has also been instrumental in challenging the Texas Medicaid system to do more to support low income/mamas of color; petitioning the Texas Medicaid system to change it’s rules so that Licensed Professional Midwives will be able to attend births for low income/mamas of color and be reimbursed by TX Medicare, they have advocated for mother friendly birth practices for low income women and they have created a movement to ensure that all women have access to the best possible perinatal care, provided by caring health care providers and are aggressively pressing the Texas legislature to support their efforts. You can learn more about Mamas of Color Rising’s work here.
Here in Texas we are going to have to be vigilant and vocal when it comes to health care. We residents, constituents, have to continually press the legislature and the Governor to do the work of the people-and to work for the people. No matter what he may think of the Affordable Care Act or President Obama, Texans need a strong Medicaid program- many mamas and babies depend on it. And it is an ill conceived plan to refuse federal funds based a stubborn, prideful, philosophical difference-which in the end will have no effect on you or the quality of your life, but will greatly impact the lives of millions of others.