What my work experience in Ghana taught me about giving birth

In December 2011 I spent 4 weeks working in Ghana.  My first 2 weeks were spent on a labour and birth ward in a large regional hospital (approx 750 beds), the next week was in the ‘NICU’, and the last week was in a rural village working in the only medical clinic available



On the labour and birth ward women laboured 5 to a room, with little to no privacy.  They had to bring all their own stuff - strips of material and plastic to lie on, a bucket to urinate in, pads and soap.  They were told to lie on their left side and be quiet.  No husbands or family members were allowed.  Messages were passed to anxious husbands who waited down the corridor.


The 'nurses station'.  Family members had to wait on the other side of that yellow partition, to the immedate left was a the 'birth room' and to the left past the desk was the labour room (with 5 beds and no curtains)


There was no air conditioning.  Temperatures ranged from 35 – 42oC, humidity hovered around 85%.  There was running water and instruments were sterilised in a back room.  Money often exchanged hands between the matron and waiting family members, but for what, I was never really sure.


Occasionally there was a woman who would start making too much noise or crying.  But with a stern word from the matron she would stop. 


The room was often full which means I saw about 30 – 40 women labour in 2 weeks.  Epidurals weren’t available.  A few women got an injection of morphine (maybe this is what the money was for).  Maybe about 5 went to have a caesarean (under general anaethetic).