Poverty and Pregnancy

poverty and preg 2Being pregnant is difficult in the best of circumstances.  I realize there are women who breeze through this experience but for many it is a very trying time.  I recall, with my second pregnancy, thinking I must have some serious disease because within the first 2 or 3 weeks I was literally exhausted and felt extremely ill.  I did not consider I was pregnant at the time for several reasons.  It hit me like a truck and I spent alot of time in bed.  Now, at that time I lived in a lovely neighborhood, owned a home and good vehicle and, though my husband and I did not have alot extra, we had a all we needed. I was a stay at home mom to my 2 year old daughter.

I live in Canada which provides an excellent health care system. I did not have to work, (although looking after a 2 year old is work) not outside the home anyway. I had all doctor appointments/ exams paid for, all hospital fees were taken care of: doctor, delivery room and staff, any drugs, emergency surgery if required and 3 days in the hospital after the birth of the baby.  In Canada prescription drugs are not provided for free but I recall I did not take anything stronger than the occasional asprin, during my pregnancy, anyhow.

Throughout both of my pregnancies, all the doctors, midwife, technicians, that I saw as a patient treated me with the utmost respect, gave me their undivided attention, time, sincere concern, and advice. I never felt looked down upon or unimportant. Good thing too, it’s a very vulnerable position to be in! It can also be an emotional and frightening time for a woman, her body is changing rapidly and she has to be concerned about another life , in the immediate moment and for several years to come!  It is clear that woman need much TLC during this time.

In stark comparison to my experience, is the reality hundreds of thousands of pregnant women face each year.  I was aghast but not surprised, to read about some of the horrors pregnant women who are poor, face in the vast slums of Nairobi. When some of these women were asked about their major concerns, two things emerged: one, the sub-standard treatment they receive from healthcare workers , due to the stigma of  ‘poor’ branded on these women and two, the harsh reality of the necessity to earn income outside of the home.

An article taken from ‘The Standard’, a Nairobi online newpaper, written by Michael Oriedo states, “The African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) study says poor women shun modern maternity and delivery services, not because they do not have money, but because they suffer poor treatment at the facilities .The study finds that some health providers are not charitable towards poor pregnant women, often abandoning them or ignoring them when they visit health center and hospitals.”   So these women often turn to local midwives who are affordable and give them the  time and respectful service they deserve -as a human being-and to the unborn human being she is carrying!

This is not to suggest the midwife is inferior to the traditional medical doctor/nurse in any way. However, one should not have to go without necessary treatment and seek out an alternative, which could take weeks, have financial costs, and holds risks (ie. if a cesarean section is needed, the midwife may not have the equipment/tools/skills to perform this emergency surgery) when there are already, at a facility, capable practitioners in attendance.

poverty and pregThis is unacceptable as these women are equal to the richest of pregnant women anywhere in this world and must be treated as such. They are indeed life as is the unborn child, as are you, as is the care provider who ignores the patient. What is required is an economic and political system, in which having the money to pay for essential health care services is provided, one such proposal is a Living Income Guaranteed. LIG ensures that no one is left behind having no access to basic services by providing each citizen with all of the basic necessities to live a dignified life.  I refuse to participate any longer in well oiled excuse like, ‘well, that is their lot in life’, ‘God, has a plan’, ‘there is nothing I can do about  it’, “it’s up to my higher power, I’m not in control of that, they must have something they are suppose to learn in this lifetime.’  Shame on us.

If I was to take a can of spray paint and cover your house or car in graffiti would you have the right to stop me?  Maybe its just ‘god’s will’ or ‘your lot in life’ or a ‘higher plan’?  Well, you can fix it but suppose each time you fixed it, I did it again!  Would that make you angry? And that was just your property not your wife, mother, sister, child I was damaging. ‘That’s ridiculous’, you may retort. No, what is ridiculous is to let a situation continue in which one pregnant woman is taken care of and another overlooked-simply because of the coin in her purse. Literally one baby is given human care/love and another human discarded, that is despicable.  

The second major problem, the pregnant women in the slums of Nairobi face, is the stark fact of needing to make money so their families don’t starve, let alone pay for other necessities of daily living…er I should say daily surviving.  The same article in The Standard, Michael Oriedo reports, “…Poverty forces pregnant women into doing heavy workloads, catering for the children they have already as well as  babies’ needs. Due to poverty, women work hard during pregnancy and the period surrounding it. They work in construction sites as head-carriers and loaders, stay out late selling their wares, or go from door to door looking for work.” 

To be a head-carrier is heavy, physical work, I would have literally thrown up and fainted and I am completely serious. Realize, I would have also gotten up , like these women, and ‘soldiered on’ to feed my other children at home, pay rent and electricity etc. but it would be hell.  I assume it is very hot in Nairobi so easy to become dehydrated. I wonder if these women get fair/compassionate breaks, water, nutrition, increased bathroom breaks on the job site, paid sick days or just sick days without the threat of loosing their job, paid time off for doctors appointments? Perhaps some, I don’t know but I’m guessing no. Perhaps some employers do and/or some want to be helpful to these women but have their own troubles and family to pay for. I know I have been guilty of this , ‘I’ll be more ‘giving’ after I straighten out this debt I have.’  Slipping into self interest and justifications.  Sadly, it’s the money system.  We’re monkeys in a cage, all of humanity but the rich and the invisible elite. They have the freedom/movement that money provides, all the best services (health, fitness, travel, vacations, no stress from money worries).

I understand that in other parts of the world, there are also trials and tribulations that pregnant woman face, this is not a competition.  I am simply looking at one situation in our world. We are not separate; one world, your world , my world.  Indeed, one baby, your baby, my baby.  One problem for us all to address and, finally,  find a solution that is best for all.

These women have to work very hard to save enough money to make up for the time they will miss from work after the delivery and time they will spend at home. Many have no choice but to continue with the heavy workload immediately after birth. This often results in sapping the women’s energy and blood and leaves them fragile. Understandably, the women then are exposed to horrific outcomes:  bleeding, anaemia, hypertension, malaria, placenta retention, premature labour, prolonged or obstructed labour and preeclampsia (convulsions). These problems often result in stillbirths, premature births, pregnancy loss, maternal mortality, morbidity, and deformity. 

One of the women interviewed, a 27-year-old mother, told of her experience of nearly dying five days after giving birth. She worked as a cleaner until a week before her delivery and resumed her job few days after giving birth. Sadly, on her first day at work after delivery, she suffered heavy bleeding.  She had to start work immediately so her children wouldn’t starve. Although she knew she needed to stay home and rest she simply needed the money. It nearly cost her her life.

Please investigate a real and practical alternative, Living Income Guaranteed.  Let us all stand together to create a better world, based on equality.  

The LIG proposal can be adopted, in part or whole, by any political party.


Investigate the Equal Life Foundation and the proposal for a Living Income Guaranteed where all are sufficiently supported and honored with their basic human rights – where they have the ability to provide themselves with food, water, shelter, education, health care – all things one would like for themselves and would be living a standard less than what is best for them without such things.

Please investigate the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal and Join us for discussion.


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