In Cambodia, more moms survive childbirth

Better and more readily available prenatal healthcare in Cambodia has led to a significant drop in deaths from childbirth.

Story by Ratana Lay. Edited by Heidi Isaza. Photos by Sopheak Kong.
Published February 2, 2012 at 12:00am PST

When first-time mother Sreynin Phoeun, 19, delivered a bouncing baby boy at a health center near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, it was a cause for celebration and relief.

“When I found out that I was pregnant, I was very happy but also worried about so many things,” Sreynin says.

If Sreynin had been pregnant seven years earlier, her chances of dying in childbirth were nearly 1 in 200. But with a country-wide push for better maternal and child healthcare, her chances today are closer to 1 in 400.

Replacing old traditions 

According to a 2010 survey in Cambodia, 89 percent of pregnant mothers are now receiving prenatal care by a skilled provider. In 2005, only 69 percent received prenatal care.

Sreymao Kun, a midwife at the health center where Sreynin delivered, explains what used to happen without care by a skilled provider.

“Before, most women followed old practices,” she says. “They showered their newborn baby with beer and put paper wasp nest dust on the baby’s navel. And the women were kept warm after delivery with hot coals. And what scared our pregnant women is that there are some women in the community who died because of improper delivery practices from traditional birth attendants at home.”

She continues with a sigh of relief. “But now, pregnant women are more keen to access services at the health center.”

New clinic for delivering babies

World Vision helped build this clinic, provided equipment for labor and delivery, trained the midwives, and has worked with the center to educate families about the importance of breastfeeding, nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation.

“Before World Vision’s intervention, only a few pregnant women delivered babies at the health center,” says Dr. Nheyn Ros, director of the center. “Now, there are nearly 20 to 30 women delivering their babies at the center each month.”

‘We feel safe’

Sreynin happily holds her baby boy.Sreynin happily cradles her baby in her arms. “In the beginning, I did not know what was safe during the pregnancy and what was not,” she says. Through the center, she learned how to take care of her own health and that of her unborn child. She received iron supplements and blood tests.

“I went to the health center regularly,” she says. “I [now] have regular appointments with health staff and [will] take my son to get his vaccinations, too.”

The midwives helped Sreynin breastfeed her baby soon after delivery. “Providing breast milk to my baby has been very good for him. It helps my baby to be healthy and brilliant,” she says. “I have learned that the mother should give only breast milk to the baby for the first six months.” 

Sreynin’s mother watches her daughter and grandson with joy and relief. “I am very happy that we have a health center near our house. We feel safe,” she shares.

Three ways you can help

Pray that pregnant mothers around the world would have access to the prenatal, labor, delivery, and postpartum care necessary to keep them safe and give birth to a healthy child.

Make a one-time gift to provide a New Mother and Baby Kit. Help a new mom by giving her the supplies she needs to care for her newborn during the first critical weeks of life. The kit includes a bassinet, diapers, a blanket, a container for clean water, and soap. Your gift will also help provide infant care training for mothers-to-be.

Give monthly to our Child and Family Health Fund. Your monthly contribution will help provide life-saving basics like vaccinations, medicines, prenatal and newborn care, training for parents and health workers, and other interventions that help reduce child mortality.