According to figures released in October 2007, one woman dies nearly every minute—536,000 a year—because of problems associated with pregnancy.—United Nations Population Fund
Each year 3.3 million babies are stillborn and more than 4 million newborns die within 28 days of coming into the world.”—UN Chronicle
“The most dangerous time for a pregnant woman is the critical period around labour and delivery,” says Joy Phumaphi, former assistant director general for Family and Community Health at WHO. What can be done to prevent serious problems, even life-threatening ones, at this critical time?
Actually, the steps are simple, but they do need to be taken in advance. This is especially important for those who refuse blood transfusions for Bible-based reasons or for those who want to avoid blood because of the significant medical risks.—Acts 15:20, 28, 29.
Such patients should do what they reasonably can to ensure that the health-care provider, whether a doctor or a midwife, is both competent and experienced in administering medical alternatives to blood transfusion.
Also, expectant parents would be wise to check that the hospital or delivery facility is willing to cooperate.
Here are two good questions to ask the doctor:
- What will you do if the mother or the baby loses a significant amount of blood or if there are other complications?
- If you are not here when the baby comes, what alternative arrangements will be made?
The prudent woman will, of course, check with her doctor to ensure that her blood count is as high as possible within the normal range prior to labor. To build up the patient’s blood, the doctor, in turn, might recommend that she take folic acid and other B-group vitamins, as well as iron supplements.
The doctor will also consider a number of other factors. For example:
- did his patient’s prenatal visits reveal any health problems that may need attention?
- Does the prospective mother need to be off her feet?
- Should she get more rest?
- Would it be wise for her to gain or lose weight or get more exercise?
- And does she need to give more attention to bodily hygiene, including oral hygiene?
Studies show that gum disease in pregnant women is associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, a serious complication that is characterized by, among other things, a sudden rise in blood pressure, severe headache, and edema (excess build up of fluid in the tissues).
Preeclampsia can lead to premature delivery and is a leading cause of fetal and maternal death, especially in developing lands.
Indeed, a careful physician will give attention to any sign of infection in the prospective mother. And if she has premature labor pains, he will recommend prompt hospitalization, which can be lifesaving.
“Women risk death to give life,” says Dr. Quazi Monirul Islam, director at WHO’s Department of Making Pregnancy Safer. But good medical care during pregnancy, at birth, and immediately after ward can help to avert many complications, even death. Most important, of course, try to maintain good health. After all, if you want a healthy baby, you need to do your best to be a healthy mother.
PREPARATION DURING PREGNANCY
- Choose your hospital, doctor, or midwife wisely by doing advance research.
- Make regular visits to your doctor or midwife, establishing a trusting, friendly relationship.
- Give careful attention to your health. If possible, take the appropriate vitamins, but avoid medication (even over-the-counter products) unless your doctor approves. It is wise to avoid alcohol. “Although the highest risk is to babies whose mothers drink heavily, it is not clear yet whether there is any completely safe level of alcohol during pregnancy,” states the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- If you experience premature labor pains (prior to the 37th week), contact your doctor or maternity ward immediately. Prompt attention may help to prevent a premature delivery and the complications that can result.
- Document personal decisions relating to medical care. For example, many have found it helpful to have a durable power of attorney (DPA) card filled out ahead of time. Find out what is used and legally acceptable in your country.
- After the birth be mindful of your health and that of your baby, especially if the baby came prematurely. Consult the pediatrician right away if you observe any problems.