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Fetal, Maternal Deaths in Philippines ‘Alarming’

26 May 2008 No Comment

MANILA, Philippines — The anti-poverty groups Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and Womanhealth Philippines have raised alarm over the reported increase in fetal deaths due to short gestation and low birth weight as shown in the latest study of the National Statistics Office released this month.

“This report punctuates the problem on maternal health that remains a challenge to the government in meeting the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health towards completely eradicating poverty in the country,” said Joel Saracho, GCAP Philippines Coordinator.

In a paper that Mercedes Fabros of Womanhealth Philippines wrote, the Department of Health recommends all pregnant women to have at least four prenatal visits, with emphasis on receiving care as early as the first trimester. Prenatal care includes advice to expectant mothers on nutrition and health care, education on the symptoms of risk conditions, examination, screening, immunization and micronutrient supplementation.

“The proportion of women attended by skilled service providers has improved over the past years with almost three fourths or 70.4 percent of women having at least 4 prenatal visits. However, only a little more than half of them or 53 percent had their first visit during the first trimester that is the most critical stage,” said Fabros.

GCAP and Womenhealth Philippines have launched a campaign to address maternal and child mortality by weaving the stories of mothers in the communities in a tapestry of tales and help these women reclaim their right to maternal health as provided for in the UN Millenium Development Goals.

The sharing of stories started last Saturday in Barangay Bago Bantay in Quezon City. “We will bring this to other barangays in Metro Manila where maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy cases are high,” Saracho said.

According to the NSO study, the National Capital Region (NCR) posted the highest number of fetal deaths with 2,550 cases or 24.6 percent of the total in the country’s 17 regions. Regions IV-A and VII ranked second and third with 1,681 and 1,264, respectively.

“As alarming as fetal deaths is maternal mortality that contribute to 14 percent of the total deaths of women aged 15-49. Each day, 10 Filipino women die from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. These are all preventable if poor women are given access to correct health services,” said Fabros.

Threat to life while giving birth

Freda Atienza knew giving birth to her second child will be difficult. Three months into her pregnancy, her husband left her and their eight year old daughter for another woman. She’s also been diagnosed as having a cyst in the right ovary. She’s been in and out the hospital for excessive bleeding. According to her, she has mastered the art of enduring and suppressing her pain.

On September 21, 2008 at around 11:30 in the evening, her water bag broke. Accompanied only by her eight year old daughter, she sought help from the Ramos General Hospital in Quezon City. She was told there was no bed for her. After three hours, she was referred to the nearby Sioson General Hospital.

Having had a previous caesarian operation, the 37-year old Freda was told that the hospital has no available anesthesiologist. The hospital also asked for P10,000 deposit but Freda said she does not have the full amount. The staff of Sioson Hospital then advised her to go the Quezon City General Hospital but to first go back to Ramos Hospital to ask a nurse to accompany her.

The pain has taken toll on Freda. At this point, she admitted that the staff of the two hospitals were virtually dealing with and giving instructions to her eight year old daughter.

Her daughter decided to go home to ask help from their landlady. She even climbed the terrace leading to the unit of their landlady’s house to wake her up.

Her landlady, Nelia Pagulayan, 42 accompanied her to Quezon City General Hospital, where they were told that it was a Sunday, and there is no available operating room for her. There were talks about her being sent to yet another hospital.

But Pagulayan insisted that she be treated in QCGH. Preda was bleeding profusely at that time and Pagulayan feared that she might die on arrival at the next, if there is indeed another available hospital without an excuse to treat her.

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