If you are going to have a baby, don't deliver in Sri Lanka
I've spent two days in the Labour Ward now and am really enjoying it. Seeing new life brought into the world is breathtaking, no matter what conditions it occurs in. However, it is a very surreal experience gien some of the programs I've seen where women have children in the Western world. I feel that the process of delivering a baby should be an incredibly special time for a family and should be a memory that is cherished and held on to forever. Sadly, I think most women in the Government Hospitals in Sri Lanka would be quite happy to forget the experience. Some differences:
- At home, the husband or another person of choice can stay with the mother throughout. They go through the process together, supporting each other. Here, the woman is entirely alone. Men are only allowed onto the ward at visiting hours and NEVER anywhere near the delivery room. The women have to go through painful contractions by themselves, with no information as to what is happening to them...one of the mothers I saw this morning was 20 years old...
- All labours are induced here. Even if abdominal pain/small contractions start independently, the labour is induced.
- All women recieve an episiotomy (look it up if you're not too squeamish) and I've been told by the two Belgian volunteers who are midwives on my ward that they are not done at all correctly.
- The women are forced to lie on their left hand side throughout the labour. No getting up and walking to ease the pain, no finding the position that is most comfortable for you.
- During the birth the midwives are violent. The mother's stomach is punched (I'm not joking) to encourage the baby out. The mother is shouted at. Down-there is pulled around, cut with scissors etc.
- As soon as the baby is born the mother is shown it's gender before it is whisked away. Forget skin-to-skin contact even though it is in the National Guidelines. Forget any bonding, any benefits such as increasing lactation, warming the baby and providing it with antibodies. The baby is put in a sideroom with all the others until about 45 minutes later when the mother must breastfeed.
- Waste goes into normal bins. And I mean soiled bandages, placentas, the works.
There is so much more that shocks me but it's the general environment. It is unimaginable until you see it. The funny thing is, the midwives are all so lovely and gentle...until they're examining the patient or delivering. People skills/bedside manner don't seem to be taught here...
Nevertheless I am loving it. I knew (and still know) very little about the actual practicalities of childbirth-it's not something you see too often! Having the Belgian volunteers really helps as they are lovely and find it easier to explain things to me than the nurses. Let's just say I'll probably be very presently surprised the next time Im in a UK hospital!