Whilst pregnancy is a universal experience, there is huge inequality in maternal care around the world. In remote corners of Africa, women have great difficulty accessing support in pregnancy and childbirth, often with tragic results. Pregnancy Twinning brings mums together across continents to make sure more women get the maternal care that all mothers deserve.
Loveness was cradling her three-week old baby boy on the concrete porch outside her house when we visited. She was full of smiles, despite those familiar new-parent bags under her eyes. She’d been hoping for this baby for a long time.
Loveness is 21 , but she first fell pregnant at 18. She and her boyfriend, Gift, were thrilled, but sharing their joy was not an option. They were unmarried and still at school – in rural Malawi those were reasons for permanent exclusion. So they hid their growing new life as long as they could. When Loveness began to show, she tied the waist of her wrap-around skirt tighter and tighter over her bump, pressing into her stomach.
She didn’t tell a nurse or go to the clinic until she could hide it no more and had started to feel unusual pains. Two weeks after attending her very first antenatal care visit, she lost her baby. She was seven months pregnant.
Just over a year later, when she had recovered and married Gift, they decided to try to start a family.
Now, as baby Loreti stretches his arms up to his mother’s face, her expression showed a different feeling: pure adoration. He was her miracle baby.
The difference a Mother Buddy makes
In Malawi, a woman is 70 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in the UK – simply because they can’t access or afford maternal care. Many women try to give birth in basic conditions at home, alone, because they live too far from the nearest clinic and have no transport. Some give birth on the side of the road, having attempted the 15km walk while in labour. What these women need is somebody who can bring advice and care to them, where they live.
When Loveness fell pregnant the second time, help came in the form of Rosemary – a Mother Buddy. Rosemary is a mum from the local area who has overcome her own challenges to give birth safely. Trained by the Pregnancy Twinning programme, she now visits other pregnant women in her community, bringing them pregnancy advice, support, and helping them to access any necessary medication and transport.
Loveness had complications again, but because Rosemary encouraged her to start antenatal care at three months and to attend all recommended visits, they were picked up much earlier this time. She was able to stay at the local birth clinic to be monitored for the week before her due date. After 30 hours of a difficult labour she was taken for a caesarean – resulting in a healthy mum and baby. If she hadn’t been able to access antenatal care or the clinic, the outcome would likely have been tragic for a second time.
Mums supporting mums supporting mums…
The beauty of mums supporting mums doesn’t end with the Mother Buddies. Connecting together mums across continents to cover the healthcare costs of support like Rosemary’s help is the heart of the Pregnancy Twinning initiative which is why this Mother’s Day we’re calling for all expectant mums and their friends to help us celebrate by twinning a pregnancy. We want to see more people embrace this contagious idea that even from thousands of miles away, mums in the UK can share the experience of pregnancy and change the outcome for an expectant mum like Loveness.
We’re seeing a new generation born healthy and strong against the odds – as baby Loreti shows.
Pregnancy Twinning demonstrates what women can achieve by working together as mothers across borders.