Stillbirths in Pakistan

Pakistan is the sixth largest nation in the world, with a population of more than 193 million and growing. Unfortunately, Pakistan also ranks third in the world for the number stillbirths amongst Pakistani women—43 out of 1,000 pregnancies result in stillbirths.

The majority of Pakistani mothers who experience stillbirths come from low- or middle-income communities where mothers lack access to preventative care. Recently, positive solutions have been developed in Pakistan that will directly impact the health of pregnant women and increase the survival rate of newborns.

What is Being Done?

Preventative care for mothers in Pakistan who live in rural areas is a major concern. In 2015, only 26 percent of pregnant mothers in rural areas made it to at least four antenatal care visits. This number reaches 62 percent for mothers in urban areas, increasing the conversation concerning stillbirths in Pakistan.

The Mother and Child Survival Program (MCSP), with help from the the Pakistani government, recently developed a Family Planning 2020 Program that hopes to bring a balance in health care to families in rural areas in Pakistan. This is a forward leap from the government’s decision to give pregnant mothers cash stipends to pay for preventative care needs such as visits to proper health care professionals, ultra sounds and basic medical examinations.

Initiatives Targeting Stillsbirths in Pakistan

Jhpiego, an international nonprofit organization, joined resources with the Maternal, New Born and Child Health Services in a five-year initiative that provided quality care to mothers in Pakistan. In a report provided in January of 2018, the program was declared a success and moved the country in the right direction to continue lowering stillbirths in Pakistan.

The program first provided updated training to medical staffers, healthcare professionals and volunteers in hospitals and healthcare facilities, which ensured that quality delivery services were provided to expecting mothers. On the community level, midwives and female health workers also received skill development training that helped them meet the needs of local pregnant women.

The program also went as far as assisting pregnant woman with transportation to antenatal care appointments and with emergency obstetrics needs. Under this provision, trained volunteers transported expectant mothers at call. Some served as ambulatory transports. It was reported that more than 2,000 drivers volunteered, providing transportation services to pregnant mothers.

In 2017, Ammi, a program founded by natives in Toronto, set up a voicemail message service that allows mothers in Pakistan to call and get healthcare tips about their pregnancy. The tips range from advice on prenatal supplements to what vaccines to receive. For support throughout their pregnancy, expectant mothers can provide their child’s estimated due date and a service woman will make calls to them during the week with pre-recorded messages that contain healthcare advice and tips.

Where Do Things Stand?

An estimated 665 stillbirths happen to mothers, young and old, in Pakistan every day. The neonatal mortality rate for Pakistani women in rural areas is 62 deaths to 1,000, with 23 percent of pregnancies ending in stillbirth. Fortunately, assistance is growing.

Organizations like MCSP, Jhpiego and Ammi, which continue to provide preventative mother-child health care services and maternal care education to expecting mothers in Pakistan, will go on to deescalate the number of stillbirths. It is of the utmost importance to keep maternal health care in Pakistan in focus until stillbirths in Pakistan no longer become the norm.

– Naomi C. Kellogg

Photo: Flickr