5 May 2014

All in a day's work

(5/5/2014): The SOS Mother and Child Clinic in the Bakoteh community of The Gambia, opened in 1997, is one of the most advanced medical institutions in the country and treats some 10,000 people per year. In early 2010, SOS Children’s Villages added a new maternity ward and from day one, there has been no shortage of work for midwife Mariama and her colleagues.

Six experienced midwives now help women before, during, and after they give birth to their children.

Mariama has been a midwife for 14 years and has helped women through pregnancy and childbirth under conditions that are unimaginable to many of us.

"For the Gambian standards, we are one of the best-equipped clinics for deliveries,” she said.

Today, Mariama is working the morning shift on her own. Her first case of the day was a woman who suffered a miscarriage.

Throughout the day, Mariama will check on and comfort her recovering patient whenever she has a moment to spare.

Dangerous lack of knowledge

At 9:00 a.m., a young woman arrives at the clinic in advanced labor, and Mariama brings her straight to the delivery room. Just two hours later, Mariama helps her give birth to a beautiful baby girl.

As she is applying the finishing touches, she reflects on the often dangerous lack of knowledge regarding the needs of pregnant women and young mothers.

"Many women are unaware that they may need some stitching and proper post-delivery care. Very few of them come back once they have delivered, so I usually give them some antibiotics to prevent post-delivery complications,” she said.

Another patient is close to her due date and experiencing excruciating contractions. Mariama gives her something for the pain and settles her in one of the three beds in the labor room.
“Some handle pain better than others," she said.

"Aside from giving them some pills to help them relax, there isn’t much we can do. Here, there is no epidural. Women suffer. But African women are very strong!"

"Women often wait until the last minute"

Mariama is used to dealing with medical emergencies with little to no warning. Today a woman arrived with her new-born baby – she had delivered in the taxi on the way to the maternity ward.
"This happens regularly," Mariama said.

“Women here often wait until the last minute. It can create some complications, but in this case, both the mother and the baby are fine.”

Both mothers and babies are cared for in the post-natal area: two rooms where they can stay for a whole day. In many other community clinics, women and their babies are discharged within just a few hours after birth.

In the afternoon, Mariama briefs her two colleagues about her morning and hands over all the cases. Before heading home for some well-deserved rest, Mariama pays all the mothers and babies a last visit. In the long struggle against maternal and infant mortality, it is the compassion and expertise of women like Mariama and her colleagues that helps them win the small battles they confront every single day.

This story is part of a month-long series telling the stories of women and mothers around the world. The series is part of the SOS Children’s Villages – USA ‘Celebrate Mothers. Empower Women’ campaign. You can find more stories, free eGifts and more at CelebrateMoms.org.