There’s hardly a man to be seen in the maternity ward of the Maternal and Child Health Training Institute in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Despite the lack of any law forbidding men to enter the delivery room, fathers are normally not present during the birth of their own child – an attitude that needs to change, say the country’s first midwives, who are due to graduate next month.
“Men need to be involved in the labour process if we are to reduce maternal mortality,” says Mala Reberio, one of the 20 midwives being trained to international standards in Bangladesh, which is still heavily reliant on community skilled birth attendants, who lack the skill and the authority to perform more complicated deliveries. Currently, one in 500 women in Bangladesh dies during childbirth.
“If [men] could see firsthand the complications of childbirth, they would be more likely to send their pregnant wives to proper medical facilities and less likely to insist on early childbirth after marriage,” says Reberio. More than 75% of deliveries take place at home, and the average age of women having their first child is just 16 years, according to the UN.
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