Her Excellency, Toyin Saraki, former first lady of Kwara State in Nigeria and founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, shared her journey to advocacy for mothers at a recent discussion on the topic of ‘Partnering Beyond the Health Sector: What is needed to ensure maternal-newborn survival?’
It is a story she has shared many times, but it never fails to inspire us to join her in doing more support the world’s mothers. We quote here from her contribution to the Why We Care initiative.
“One day in 1991, when I was 28 weeks pregnant with twins, I started retaining a lot of water and my blood pressure skyrocketed. Then I started to bleed. I didn’t know it then, but it was eclampsia, a life-threatening complication of pregnancy.
“By the time I got to a doctor in Lagos, Nigeria, it was too late. One of my baby girls died. The other repeatedly stopped breathing and had to be revived; one of her heart valves hadn’t closed. My doctors were excellent, but their information was inadequate – they said all I could do was pray.
“I did pray, promising God I would spend my life helping other mothers if my baby lived. Then I learned about an experimental drug in England called digoxin, and because I was economically privileged I managed to get some of it. My daughter’s heart valve closed and she survived.”
Madam Saraki went on to have three more children, including another set of twins and faced similar complications. But this time she was prepared and all four of her surviving children are thriving.
In her speech last week, she outlined what every mother needs in order to have a safe birth experience. A woman preparing for the birth of a child needs need shelter and a clean environment. She needs freedom from violence. She needs to know how far along she is in her pregnancy. She needs care that is respectful and provided by someone they trust in her own community, and she needs that care to be provided by someone who is knowledgeable and trained. “An empowered and informed woman is a health-seeking woman who can act as an advocate for her child and ensure her newborn receives appropriate life-saving care,” Madam Saraki stated.
Turning her focus to the one million infants who die on their very first day of life, she continued, “I cannot stress the importance of midwives helping mothers and their newborn infants during the fragile first 24 hours after birth. Midwives are on the frontlines of reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. Skilled midwives keep expectant mothers informed throughout their pregnancy and labor; empower women to make healthy choices for their family; and provide medical assistance for newborns in the first few days of their life…A 25 percent increase in midwives could reduce maternal mortality by 50 percent. Imagine the impact that this would have on the life and future chances of every newborn child.”
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Check out the rest of the day’s discussions on MDGs 4, 5 and 6 in this great round-up from hosts Johnson & Johnson. Share your favorite tweet or “aha” moment from the Storify on your social networks. News and highlights from the entire week’s discussions can be found here.
Image courtesy of Johnson & Johnson