“Hundred Times the Difference”
Maternal and fetal health is one of the topmost concerns in under-developed countries. Whether it is in regards to lack of prenatal care, or the lack of medical personnel or hospitals within the area to help mothers give birth, women all over the world have a different experience dealing with childbirth.
An article in The New Yorker featured a photo series called “Hundred Times the Difference” by photographer Moa Karlberg who captured the faces of women during their final stages of birth, all of whom range in expression, from expectation to pain. Karlberg took half of her photos in Sweden and the other half in Tanzania and just by looking at the photos, you can tell the immense differences between the common experience in the two different countries. The Swedish pictures depict childbirth in a hospital, where women typically have access to midwives and the proper technology. In Tanzania, there is a whole other story, with only half the women giving births in medical facilities, and even then, they are often not even equipped with the basic equipment.
Karlberg herself, a Swedish native, was able to go on this trip with the support of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She described the two experiences as polar opposites. In Sweden, as a woman is in the final stages of childbirth, she lies on the hospital’s white sheets, with her husband by her side as he strokes her back, gives her motivation, and urges her to keep pushing. Music is put on over the loud speakers, the woman has access to water and juice on the table next to her bed, as she sits in her private room with her own bathroom. She also has access to painkillers at her wish. In Tanzania, a woman typically gives birth on the bunk and fabrics she brings herself. The only water she has available to her is tap, which is typically undrinkable regardless. Instead of a private bathroom, she has a bucket on the floor she can use. There is no family member by her side, but rather there are other women in the room that are also going through childbirth, all in different stages of their labor. There is a nurse tending to them, but offers no painkillers and telling them to quiet down when they scream. These differences, both big and small, result in Tanzanian women having a 100 times higher risk of death during childbirth than Swedish women.
Sweden’s higher standard of living has made it a hub for refugees, especially from war torn countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and especially now, Syria. In her photo collection, Karlberg includes a photo of a Ugandan woman giving birth in Sweden, giving birth in a hospital that she probably would not have had access to in Uganda. Karlberg’s photos allow us to revel in both the similarities and differences of these women’s experiences. Their inequalities were both highlighted, as well as erased. Sure, we see the background and we can see whether or not the women were giving birth in sterile areas, but we also see the women in their shared experience. You see the determination on their face in the most transformative moments of their life, as they become mothers.
For the full story and photo collection: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/giving-birth-in-different-worlds