Giving birth in Bangladesh

My graduate advisor's wife is a doctor of public health and a nurse-midwife in the States and has been in 70 countries studying midwifery. She worked with the Peace Corps for years as well. This is her life's mission- she says most deaths in mothers and young children worldwide are easily treatable.

The upside of midwifery from elsewhere is that their delivery practices are often superior to western medicine (in terms of using gravity, warmth, water, etc. to assist delivery without tearing or cutting). We've gone too far in the opposite direction in the States, with C-section rates at about 30% (when the cross-cultural rate of necessary C-sections is about 5%). We medicalize childbirth more than is healthy, leaving many mothers with poor hospital birthing experiences.

The downside of midwifery elsewhere is that little knowledge about santitation and breastfeeding can cause severe problems for mother and child. Many mothers die due to an unsanitary atmosphere at birth, later causing infections. Furthermore, there have been companies like Nestle that did campaigns in third world countries that encouraged mothers to bottle feed with formula and told them breast milk was not as good. This caused a rash of fatalities, as many third world areas have no purified drinking water. Cultural barriers to effective child and maternal health come, unfortunately, from both angles- from the traditional culture and from the global marketplace.