“When I arrived at my daughter’s home, her pain had already begun. It was midnight, and we could not get to the clinic,” said Mrs. Siamoy*. She had gone to be with her pregnant daughter who lived in a district called Sholgar to help with the birth. But Sholgar was a long way from the nearest clinic, and they simply could not make the journey. So Mrs. Siamoy got ready to help her daughter deliver the baby at home.
Mrs. Siamoy is a member of a BLiSS (Birth Life Saving Skills) group. This training programme educates men and women on how to have safer and healthier pregnancies, how to respond to emergencies during deliveries and essential post-natal and infant care. In Afghanistan, mother and infant mortality rates are very high. Poverty, lack of education and health facilities located a considerable distance away are contributing factors. Many women end up giving birth at home with untrained attendants, and some women and babies do not survive.
Mrs. Siamoy had just completed the fifth lesson on delivering babies at home when she went over to help her daughter. She recalled what had been taught and went to prepare a clean place for the birth. Half an hour later, the baby was born.
“I learned from the BLiSS lesson that we should first dry and wrap the baby and then cut the umbilical cord. I measured two fingers from the baby’s navel and tied a string, then we tied a second string another two fingers along the cord. Then we cut between the two knots of string. Before this, we would cut the cord a long way from the baby,” Mrs. Siamoy explained.
She also learned to cut the cord with a clean bandage and some warm water. Then, she helped her daughter to put on clean clothes and told her to rest in a clean place: “I told my daughter that the first milk she produces is useful for the baby. I told her to breastfeed her baby and that breastfeeding reduces post-birth bleeding.”
“I also told her not to put anything on the cut end of the baby’s umbilical cord, like Vaseline or ash,” she added. “This could cause an infection that could travel to the navel via the cord.”
The next morning, both women took the baby to the clinic for vaccinations. Mrs. Siamoy is happy that she could help her daughter give birth safely with the knowledge she gained from BLiSS.