Childbirth is a universal phenomenon whose awe-inspiring significance transcends borders, languages and cultures. However, safe childbirth care is anything but universal: it often depends on factors like one’s location, income or access to transportation. Indeed, these factors are among the major barriers preventing millions of pregnant women in low-income countries from receiving the high-quality care they need during childbirth.
Put simply: where a woman gives birth should not determine whether she gives birth safely.
At Gradian, we recognize the critical role of surgical and anesthesia care in safeguarding women’s health during childbirth. And we work every day to make sure that health providers around the world are equipped with the technology and skills to provide safe maternal healthcare – particularly during emergencies, when surgery could mean the difference between life and death.
All pregnant women – regardless of where they live – are at risk of developing complications during pregnancy or childbirth that could become life-threatening. In fact, roughly 15% of pregnant women will suffer a complication that requires specialized, hospital-based care from a doctor or nurse. Whether it’s severe bleeding, high-blood pressure, obstructed labor, infection, unsafe abortion or another condition, all pregnant women must have access to safe obstetric care in case of an emergency.
Unfortunately, access to emergency obstetric care is not guaranteed in many parts of the world. Nine out of 10 people in places like sub-Saharan Africa lack access to basic surgical and obstetric services, meaning millions of women giving birth are unable reach care if they experience a complication. The result is more than 300,000 maternal deaths every year, more than a million neonatal deaths and millions more debilitating childbirth injuries that directly affect women and their newborns.
In response, the global health community has made emergency obstetric care a priority for low-income countries – especially C-section surgery, which is the most common means of treating childbirth complications. The average C-section rate across Africa is 7.3% of births – roughly half the recommended rate and low enough to allow "maternal and neonatal mortality [to] skyrocket," according to experts. Expanding access to this vital operation could save tens of thousands of women and newborns, but doing so means revamping the systems required for safe and effective surgery.
A key component of surgical systems is anesthesia care – and the infrastructure, equipment and skills needed to provide it. That’s where we come in.
Our Universal Anaesthesia Machine (UAM) delivers anesthesia even in the absence of electricity and medical oxygen – both of which are often lacking in low-resource hospitals. And Gradian’s distribution networks across more than two-dozen countries enable us and our local partners to maintain our equipment and train users to operate it. Our hope is that the combination of reliable technology, local customer service and on-site training can enhance hospitals’ capacity to offer safe anesthesia, and thus, their ability to provide emergency obstetric care.
Last week, we were awarded a grant from Saving Lives at Birth to do just that in Zambia, and we invite you to learn more about this upcoming project here. In the meantime, we’ll continue working at the frontlines of care to ensure that pregnant women are always in good hands when they give birth – no matter where they are when they do.
To learn more about maternal health and the role of surgical care, check out this new media campaign on the topic.
Adam Lewis is the Director of Communications & Marketing at Gradian Health Systems.