Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Save The Children Campaign - Ending First Day Deaths

As I mentioned in my post about Save The Children yesterday, the new campaign which aims to end first-day deaths will be launched by Save the Children this Tuesday 25th February. Save the Children believe that no baby should have just one first day on the earth, and they believe that many of these deaths could be preventable. 

Anna Kari/Save the Children
We are quite lucky in this country as we have good access to healthcare and midwives and obstetricians who are able to ensure that our newborn death rates remain at a record low compared to other places in the world. In fact in the UK, according to the last statistics reported in 2011 there were 4.2 infant deaths during the first year of life per 1000 births, and these were deaths of infants in their first year of life suffering from risk factors like being preterm, having a low birth rate, social deprivation and poor maternal health. SIDS also affects these figures, with the current UK rate standing at around 0.36 per 1000 births. In this country, according to the Save The Children Report, one baby in every 1000 dies on their first day of life, and three babies per 1000 die in the first month of their life. This slightly contradicts the Infant Mortality Report released by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, but lets just say, the statistics are relatively low in the UK, and we have access to exceptionally good healthcare compared to other countries.

This unfortunately isn't the same around the world, and every year, 2.9 million babies die in their first month of life. The incidence of newborn deaths are very high in countries where there is not access to good midwifery expertise, healthcare facilities, sanitation or medicines to protect from diseases such as malaria and HIV. Somalia, Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone and CAR all rank as the most at risk countries for babies to be born in. However, even civilised countries such as the USA, China and Brazil have high incidences of maternal and newborn deaths - perhaps due to their very medically managed and highly insurance heavy health care systems, where the Caesarean rates peak at over 90% for Brazil and 50% for China and babies are often forced to arrive before they are ready, and where there is a very high teen birth rate such as countries like the USA and babies are having babies that their bodies are not ready for.

As previously mentioned, I have a bit of a professional interest in this campaign as an Antenatal Teacher and Doula, because I work with parents in the late antenatal period and early postnatal period, and often see babies and parents on the first day of their life as a family together. To me, the notion that this could be their one and only day together is just absolutely unthinkable. We always talk about that first day of birth, and I recommend to parents that they be selfish and keep this day for themselves and their baby, as they can't get these first magical moments back, and they are moments that they will always remember.  I can't imagine them having to negotiate other hurdles during birth such as no access to a qualified midwife, or fighting to give birth in a suitable environment and in a position which most aids the ease of childbirth.

For parents, the first day of a child's life should be one of the most amazing of their life. They may have been waiting for this moment for the last nine months, or even longer if they have been trying for this child for quite a while. However, childbirth doesn't always go to plan, and unfortunately not all babies are born to live.

As an antenatal student, I focused on the loss of a baby during one of my modules and gained great insight into what it is like to lose a baby in the first day of life. The death of a baby is a tragedy. The death of a baby is one of the hardest things a parent can experience. For many, the grief never ceases and they still mourn their loss years later, even if they have other children. Nothing can be said to make parents feel better when a baby dies, and empathy for the bereaved parents is crucial. When a baby dies, first time parents may feel unwillingly thrown out of the "club" they joined and could be living in limbo. Some of their friends and family may expect them to simply pick themselves up and move on to another pregnancy. Friends and family with young babies may feel awkward and could feel they are rubbing their own baby in the grieving parent's face if they visit them.

Each parent will feel differently about how they want those around them to respond when they lose a child. The empty arms of a mother respond in strange ways. She will have the added heartache of her post-pregnancy body carrying on without her - the milk coming in, the blood of the post-pregnancy period, the after birth contractions, the postnatal recovery, and all of it without a baby to remind her of what it was all for. Did you know that scientists have found that fetal cells survive in a mother's blood stream decades after a birth? Therefore, a mother will always have a connection with her baby, regardless of whether they are alive or not.

Most newborn deaths are preventable, with the help of a trained midwife, access to basic medicines such as antibiotics and antiseptics, and good hygiene and sanitation. These are not big asks, all it requires is a political will from governments around the world to provide the funds to train and equip midwives.

Anna Kari/Save the Children
Thanks to global action on things like vaccines, family planning and the treatment of childhood illness, infant death rates have dropped significantly in the last two decades. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to cut the rates even further. A lack of political focus on newborn deaths is blocking this generation from stopping all preventable child deaths.

2014 heralds a unique opportunity to make change happen because for the first time ever, countries and institutions around the world will sit down to agree the Every Newborn Action Plan. We need to make sure world leaders take action on this and know the world is calling for them to do so. The aim is to save the lives of two million newborn babies a year, and to ensure that every baby is born with the support of a trained and equipped midwife.


There are lots of things that you can do to support this campaign:

Firstly you can join the Twitter Campaign happening on Tuesday 25th February from 1-2pm to launch the new campaign, make some noise, and draw political attention to the cause. The twitter party will follow the #firstday and will be cohosted by @savechildrenuk and Chris from @thinlyspread. Nigerian midwife Catherine will be sharing what a baby’s #firstday is like in remote health clinics in Nigeria.

There will be questions about your memorable #firstday and the #first day of your baby's life.

If you’ve got one minute:
Please SIGN THE PETITION to ask David Cameron to put a global plan into action in 2014 that will ensure every baby is born with the life-saving help of a trained and equipped midwife and use his influence to get world leaders to do the same.

Please text a donation: a donation of £3, the price of a cup of coffee, could save 10 newborn lives by buying 10 tubes of antiseptic cream. Text COFFEE to 70090. You can also donate online 

If you’ve got two minutes:
Please share the link to the newborn campaign online and ask people to take action or donate: 

If you’ve got 10 minutes or more:
Please write about the campaign online and why it’s so important that the world acts this year to save newborn lives

Or if you are a blogger, you could join the 100 word challenge blog linky: ‘What did your midwife do that made sure your baby had a second day?’ Or, if you’re not a parent: ‘What did a midwife do to make sure you had a second day?’ Email Chris on c.mosler@Savethechildren.org.uk to link your blog up.

Please consider supporting the Save the Children campaign, and do what you can to help end preventable First Day deaths.

You can watch the TV Ad here

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