“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” – Paulo Coelho


Photo credit: Maternity Worldwide

The figures are startling. Every year around the world 287,000 women die in what should be the most joyous time of life: Having a baby. That means one woman dies every 2 minutes or 800 a day, during pregnancy and childbirth.

As a mother of two children who suffered two high-risk births, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be pregnant in a developing nation. It is not surprising that the majority of women (over 56% of the total) who die are in sub-Saharan Africa, a region of the world that is engulfed in extreme poverty. When you compare the mortality rates to women in the Western world, 99% of all deaths take place in the developing world.

In Ethiopia alone, one of the poorest countries in the world, 90% of women give birth at home and for every 100,000 women who give birth in the country, 676 women die from delivery and childbirth complications. Further accentuating the problem in the fact that Ethiopian women, who have little or no access to family planning or contraception, have on average 4.8 babies who survive. These numbers alone put women at high risk of dying and not living to see their babies grow up or raise the others.


Maternity Worldwide used a portable ultrasound to help to identify problems in Burane’s pregnancy that saved her life. Photo credit: Maternity Worldwide.

Meet Burane.   She is only 25 years old and lives in a small village in the West Wollega area of Ethiopia. Her village is almost two hours walk from the nearest health centre.

Here is her story:

“Despite the distance and being well advanced in her pregnancy, Burane walked to the health centre as she had heard that at the maternal health clinic Maternity Worldwide was able to provide women with a rare chance to have an ultrasound scan which would show a picture of her baby in the womb.

Although this was Burane’s fourth baby, she had considered it important to have antenatal care and had therefore been to the clinic for three earlier check-ups. She knew that she was now near to the end of her pregnancy, and she wanted to make sure that her baby was well.

When Burane arrived at the health centre, she mentioned that she had experienced some back pain that morning. When she was examined it was clear that the baby’s head was firmly engaged which was confirmed by an ultrasound scan and suggested she was ready to go in to labour. Indeed, as the scan was being completed, Burane’s waters broke.

She was carried on a stretcher to the delivery room, where within 30 minutes she safely delivered a healthy baby girl.”

*Source: Maternity Worldwide

There are many stories that don’t have as happy as an ending as Burane’s did.  Women do not need to die during pregnancy and childbirth. It is a horrible tragedy that can be easily solved. Many mothers die as a result of complications and conditions that could be cheaply and effectively solved by just a tiny bit of intervention. Maternity Worldwide is a London-based non-profit organization that works to help ensure women in developing nations have a safe birth.

“At Maternity Worldwide we know that there are many different reasons why women and girls don’t receive the maternal health care they need. We work alongside local communities and partners to address each of these and enable women and girls in some of the poorest rural areas of the world to give birth safely.”

Mum-and-baby-Gimbie-225x300So where do you come in and how can you help? 

Want to offer a gift this holiday season that truly saves a life?  London-based Maternity Worldwide, an organization that works to ensure safe birth and increased maternal health in developing countries has the perfect option. “Save a Life this Christmas” is an alternative gift option for those who have it all or those who want to give back. For $24 and $81, your gift will cover an emergency delivery for a mother in sub-Saharan Africa. For details click here.  

Please note that the Maternity Worldwide’s website is British so the amounts are in pounds. If you are purchasing from the United States, it will automatically change to dollars upon checkout. 


  1. Wow, you know you’re in the developing world when you measure distance in terms of such a long walk, right? It’s so hard for so many of us in the west to imagine that. Great post, Nicole!

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