Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 16:14 UK
Maternal mortality across the world

Pregnant woman

Going through labour is still risky for mother and baby. BBC news has been looking at how childbirth experiences vary around the world.

Different countries have different success rates for births and within those countries, rates vary according to race and social status. Readers of the BBC News website tell us what they have been through.

Audrey Wabwire with her son on her graduation day
Audrey Wabwire with her son on graduation day in Kenya
I fell pregnant when I was a student at university. I was 21-years-old. I was single. I was terrified of having my child locally because I had heard stories of women dying at the hands of ruthless nurses who were especially mean to young single ladies whom they claim are immoral.

My village is very small and everyone knows everyone so some people were nasty because I was pregnant. But I wanted the child and I had good family support. I decided to go to a private hospital in Nairobi. It was very expensive, about a month's salary. I stayed with my sister in the city to save money on accommodation and in exchange I did housework.

The neighbours talked and talked but my baby and I were fine and that was all that mattered

I couldn't afford pre-natal checks because I needed to save as much money as possible to pay for food for the baby after the birth. I realise I was lucky that my pregnancy was uncomplicated. The medical staff were very friendly and supportive.

When my labour came on I stayed at home for as long as possible. By the time my sister and I got to the hospital, it only took two hours for my baby to be born! I couldn't afford to stay in hospital for long so I went back to my sister's and then in time moved back to my village.

The neighbours talked and talked but my baby and I were fine and that was all that mattered. I went back to university and finished my degree. Now I work to earn money and my mum looks after my son, Andrew. It was tough but we made it.

I think sometimes it's how the person who is helping you during labour is handling you. I felt my midwife was in a rush and not doing her job properly. She kept going off duty to deal with personal matters. I don't know how my baby died but I do know my care could have been better.

I gave birth to one of my twins. It was a girl. Then I blacked out

I already had a daughter when I fell pregnant with my boyfriend. I was expecting twins. We went to the local state hospital when I went into labour. After 25 hours with no pain relief, I gave birth to one of my twins. It was a girl. Then I blacked out.

When I woke up I was in a cramped ward with lots of mothers and their newborns. I could only see one of my babies but nobody would stop to tell me where my other one was. I started crying. Eventually a doctor came over and very quickly told me that the other twin had died. All he said was that there had been complications.

I could only see one of my babies but nobody would stop to tell me where my other one was

In Botswana you can have your family looking after you on the ward so I had lots of support. My boyfriend and my parents stayed with me the whole time until I was ready to go home.

It was a horrible experience. Two years later I have started to feel a bit better. I'm eating and talking more now but it's very hard for me. I still cry. I look at my daughter and wonder what her sibling might have looked like.

Kirsteen McDonald
Kirsteen McDonald from Scotland suffered pre-eclampsia
My pregnancy was going really well until I went for a 20 week pre-natal check. I was showing signs of pre-eclampsia. My condition was monitored from then on. When I suffered a migraine, which is a sign of pre-eclampsia, I was induced straight away.

After three days though nothing was happening. I was having contractions but I wasn't dilating beyond five centimetres. My blood pressure peaked and my baby's heartbeat was dropping so I was given an emergency Caesarean. The medics were great and they kept me informed throughout.

After a few hours, the midwife noticed my son was having breathing difficulties. The doctors rushed in and he was taken down to the special care unit. I was still feeling very hazy after all the drugs so wasn't sure what was happening.

Baby in an incubator
Kirsteen's son Cameron spent weeks on the special care unit

My son was in the unit for a couple of days before he was diagnosed. The doctor came in to tell my husband and I that the next 24 hours were crucial and that my son might not survive. It felt unreal. It was like the doctor wasn't talking to me but about someone else and their baby. My husband and I were in a state of shock. Someone just pulled the rug out from under our feet.

My son survived. I cannot thank the NHS enough. I look back now and I know that both myself and my son Cameron could have died, me from the pre-eclampsia and him from the infection. There were other babies on the special care unit. Some of them didn't survive. I feel so very lucky.

Lynn Wong
Lynn Wong paid for private care in Malaysia
On my due date my waters broke but then nothing happened. I was then induced. After eight hours I was progressing but very slowly. I was so sure I would have a hassle-free birth but I just wasn't dilating.

My doctor and I had a discussion and we decided together that a Caesarean section was the best option. My birth plan went out of the window but I had to make a decision about what was best for the baby. My child was getting distressed and was stuck in the birth canal. My daughter was born safely shortly afterwards and my treatment throughout was excellent.

The baby's father missed the whole thing though. He had just gone home to feed the cat when the decision was taken to do an emergency section.

I gave birth in a private medical centre. I have no faith in the public health sector. I've worked in the NHS and Malaysian public hospitals are not comparable. Admittedly public healthcare has improved over the last ten years but state hospitals are over-crowded and the care is hit and miss. Some medics are highly qualified and experienced but some aren't so there is no consistent care.

I made an informed decision to go private and I was lucky I could afford it. It's all about the money in Malaysia.

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