Do you know the real reason so many Ukrainian women go abroad to give birth?
There are large numbers of private maternity houses and state perinatal centers throughout Poland, the United States, England, Germany and other countries that welcome expectant mothers from beyond their own national borders, and many of these mothers come from Ukraine.
But why do Ukrainian women continue to choose hospitals so far from home? Is it for the comfort? Is it that some are wealthy and are doing it for status?
I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this question lately, and I think I know how to explain it. Though some of the factors I mentioned may play minor roles in the decision, the biggest reason a woman makes this choice, I’m convinced, has to do with the safety of the tiny, delicate, extremely important being she is about to bring into the world.
While true, all of this matters little when a woman applies to these places the question of how confident she feels about each one’s capacity to effectively manage the kinds of unexpected medical complexities that can arise during childbirth. For too many of these nearby centers her answer to this all-important question is–not very confident.
So how does an expectant Ukrainian mother make this very difficult decision?
She researches hospitals to the best of her ability from those she sees advertised, and chooses the one that inspires in her the highest degree of confidence.
But what is most important in actually ensuring the safe delivery of a newborn? Is it a beautiful building? Pleasantly painted walls? New beds? Shiny, modern equipment?
The truth is that the single most important factor in ensuring safe delivery and optimum health-of both mother and newborn child-is the skill level of those entrusted with their care. If the treatment team is not well-trained and practiced in the most current protocols for what should be done, both in the moments leading up to-as well as the crucial first minutes after-a newborn baby enters the world, no amount of modern medical equipment, or fancy facilities, can prevent the kinds of otherwise avoidable tragedies that can, and often do, occur during childbirth at the hands of less skilled caregivers.
In the back of every expectant Ukrainian mother’s mind is this fear; the fear of what could happen if those responsible for her care and that of her newborn are not so skilled. This, I believe, is why so many expectant mothers elect to give birth at large state-of-the-art perinatal centers far from home or venture abroad to give birth.
But imagine if every maternity hospital in Ukraine possessed teams of highly skilled obstetricians, neonatologists, anesthetists and nurses who worked together efficiently and applied the principles of evidence-based medicine. If this were the reality, there would be no need for Ukrainian women to give birth far from home.
So How Do We Achieve This?
Training is the key. As caregivers, we can each increase our level of skill by learning from those more expert than ourselves. And by sharing generously what we’ve learned, we can increase the level of expertise of our medical colleagues. This is how we build out a seamless network of first-rate maternity hospitals throughout Ukraine!
But how do we get there? The good news is that there are many smart, compassionate people who want children to be born healthy in their own hometowns who are working on just this question.
So, where do we begin? At the beginning-by identifying and defining the challenge. With the support of the Children’s Medical Care Foundation, Professor Maria Katarzyna Borszewska-Kornacka, President of the Polish Neonatal Society, conducted an analysis of the state of neonatal care delivery in the most prestigious perinatal centers in Ukraine. Deficiencies in care delivery were identified, and a detailed report with recommendations for how to address them was produced.
A Plan is Hatched
Knowing that not all of the recommended changes could be implemented immediately, an achievable first phase plan was developed.
Ukraine’s three best perinatal centers, in the cities of Kharkiv, Kiev and Zhytomyr, were selected as designated sites for a series of best practice trainings.
- Training topics were discussed and tailored to the needs of the individual centers.
- Former Children’s Medical Care Foundation Fellows were recruited to be trainers from some of the best neonatal clinics in the world.
- Donated state-of-the-art medical equipment was secured for use in the trainings.
This pilot program is designed to be the ideal platform for practical, real time learning for a wide range of medical professionals and staff who play a role in the care of a newborn baby.
The first of these trainings, “Ventilation Support for Neonates”, took place on April 13, 2019 at Kharkiv Regional Perinatal Center. A number of Polish experts in the field of neonatology, Children’s Medical Care Foundation and the Ukrainian Ministry of Health partnered to produce this 2-day training, which was a resounding success.
Subsequent trainings in this series are expected to include simulations of a variety of clinical situations and access to real patients.
By involving the young and willing we can achieve the goal of a future where Ukrainian mothers feel confident giving birth close to home knowing that their newborns will be safe and healthy! Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming trainings.