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Human Progress Saved My Baby, and Will Save Many More

April 3, 2019 in Economics

By Chelsea Follett

Chelsea Follett

“Her heart rate is decelerating with each
contraction,” explained the doctor to my husband and me, a
grave expression on her face, “and we just saw a major
deceleration.” We were rushed into the surgery room for an
emergency cesarean section, and just minutes later, we met our
first child.

She was alive, beautiful, and screaming her lungs out.

After the C-section, we learned the reason for the heartrate
decelerations: her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, like
a noose, four times. We were told the hospital’s record was
five. The technical term for her condition was “quadruple
nuchal cord.” Were it not for the emergency C-section, she
almost certainly would have asphyxiated during delivery and been
stillborn.

No mother, anywhere in
the world, should ever have to lose a child — and thanks to
the global decline of poverty and spread of medical technology,
fewer do.

The specifics of my daughter’s situation may have been
unusual, but her survival is an example of a broader trend. Thanks
to medical advances, the global rate of stillbirth per 1,000 births
has fallen from 24 in the year 2000 to 18 in 2015,
with decreases seen in all regions of the world. In my
daughter’s case, for example, those advances included
external monitoring of the fetal heart rate during labor and a
cesarean delivery.

Not only has there been progress in reducing stillbirths, but
more and more children survive to see their first birthday. The
global infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births fell from 65 in
1990 to less than 30 in 2017, according the World Bank.

Access to stillbirth-preventing technology, as well as
improvements in nutrition and sanitation that decrease infant
mortality, are made easier by the spread of economic development
around the world. The greatest improvements in infant health have
taken place in developing countries as poverty declines and
standards of living rise.

To understand just how important prosperity is, consider the
difference between falling stillbirth rates, which depend on the
latest and thus very expensive technology, and falling infant death
rates, which are connected to overall economic improvements in
developing countries. 

Poor countries suffer far more stillbirths than rich countries,
both in absolute terms and adjusted for population, although the
rate is decreasing in both. Using data spanning 1990 to 2010,
researchers have estimated that more than
40 percent of global stillbirths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the
world’s poorest region. In fact, 98 percent of the
world’s stillbirths occur in low-income and middle-income
countries. Less than 2 percent occur in developed regions.

In contrast, when it comes to infant mortality rates,
sub-Saharan Africa and other poor areas of the world …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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