Blog Posts by Catharine Taylor

 {Photo Credit: Rui Pires}A pregnant woman is given an ultrasound.Photo Credit: Rui Pires

(This post originally appeared on the Next Billion website.)

Why Greater Ultrasound Availability Doesn’t Always Benefit Patients

Advances in health technologies have reshaped the lives of communities, families and individuals, undoubtedly contributing to better health outcomes around the world. For the most vulnerable populations, technology may significantly improve access to preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services and help increase demand for greater quality care. Yet, despite their potential, new technologies can also add new challenges, risking potential gains in quality, safety or cost. Particularly in settings where health systems are weak, the introduction of technological interventions requires thoughtful execution.

 {Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH}A midwife in Uganda leads a group antenatal care session, an approach that can transform how quality care is delivered and experienced.Photo credit: Kate Ramsey/MSH

For many people living in poor and underserved regions – whether rural communities or growing cities – midwives are the health system.

Midwives play a vital role for women during pregnancy and childbirth, but their care expands much more than that. Midwives provide solutions that ensure girls and women have access to a comprehensive range of services promoting their right to physical and mental health. They provide family planning and reproductive health services and care for newborns and young children not only at health facilities but also in communities. They deliver the respectful and excellent quality of care that can prevent more than 80 percent of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths worldwide.

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Reaching Women in Uganda Through Pregnancy Clubs

{Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman}Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

Pregnancy and childbirth are times of unparalleled change and hope for the future. But for many women, the arrival of a new baby is also a challenging time — one that can be overshadowed by depression.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 1 in 10 women suffer from postnatal depression, a devastating statistic that too often receives no attention. In African countries and contexts where women are exposed to poverty, persistent poor health, migration, conflict, gender-based violence, extreme stress, and unwanted pregnancy, the estimates are even higher, with up to 25 percent of women experiencing clinical depression after childbirth.  

The effects of depression on social and economic wellbeing and on families are enormous, as the risks and consequences go well beyond an individual woman. Depression in pregnancy is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight, which increases the risk of complications such as undernutrition and heart disease. Women who suffer from postpartum depression are often stigmatized and less likely to benefit from postnatal and preventive health care for themselves and their children. Partners and families may have difficulty understanding why a new mother who should be happy at the birth of a healthy baby is depressed.

{Women in Malawi are increasingly engaging in sustainable ways to grow household income and end poverty, such as village savings and loans groups. (Photo Credit: Feed the Children / Amos Gumulira)}Women in Malawi are increasingly engaging in sustainable ways to grow household income and end poverty, such as village savings and loans groups. (Photo Credit: Feed the Children / Amos Gumulira)

Follow the conversation at the Commission on the Status of Women:

As we prepare to join the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) next week, where the focus will be on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, I am reminded of my visit to Malawi last month.

{Free antenatal and postnatal services encourage women to seek care at health facilities. Antenatal visits are of particular importance for awareness and early screening for chronic illnesses, which can avert costly treatment and save lives. (Photo credit: Adam Kone)}Free antenatal and postnatal services encourage women to seek care at health facilities. Antenatal visits are of particular importance for awareness and early screening for chronic illnesses, which can avert costly treatment and save lives. (Photo credit: Adam Kone)

This article was originally posted on the NCD Alliance's website. 

A few weeks ago I visited a health center in Freetown, the main port city and commercial center in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The health center is one of few health facilities serving the city, located in an urban area that is home to an estimated 1 million people. The clinic offers free antenatal care during pregnancy as part of the government's commitment to ensuring health care reaches all citizens.

The risk of a woman dying during pregnancy has long been unacceptably high in Sierra Leone, a problem that only worsened when Ebola hit in 2014. According to the latest figures from 2015, Sierra Leone has the worst maternal mortality ratio in the world. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 17. The burden of newborn deaths is also among the world’s highest, with a newborn mortality rate of 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.

 {Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu.}Abuja National Hospital, Nigeria.Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu.

In years to come we will look back on the summer of 2014 and recall the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths campaign as a turning point in our struggle to reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality and morbidity. USAID announced this summer that it is realigning $2.9 billion of the Agency’s resources to refocus on high-impact programs with proven track records to save women, newborns, and children under five.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.

Supporting Stronger Health Systems for Healthy Mothers and Children

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