Being pregnant at any time can be difficult, but being pregnant during the monsoon floods that swept through Pakistan in July 2010 brought particularly serious challenges.
Dr Shams has been working at the Pakistan Red Crescent’s health clinic in Mehar hospital, Sindh province, for three months. She is in the unique position of being the first female doctor to work in this region and in the hospital’s first specialised service for women.
Word has spread about the new service and there is a constant stream of women needing her help.
Giving birth in the flood
When the flood came, Mirzadi Mumtaz took refuge in a temporary camp at a school, where she gave birth to baby Fawad.
“I was very scared about the delivery,” says Mirzadi. “I was away from the village midwives, the women who would have helped me through the birth. If there had been an emergency, there was no one to help me.”
Sharifan Rayaqe also gave birth at the school, to baby Jameel, who is now three months old. “It was very hard to be pregnant through the floods,” she says. “I have three other children who had chest infections, and there was not enough to eat. With dirty water all around us it was hard to keep clean, and all I wanted was to be home. I am very glad to be back, but now we have other worries too, like getting water that is safe to drink.”
Most of the women Dr Shams sees are poor and from places that were badly affected by the floods, so their families may have nothing at all. Without the Pakistan Red Crescent’s service, the only alternative would be a private clinic, but for most of the patients this simply wouldn’t be affordable.
Dr Shams says: “We are seeing certain problems that keep occurring, likely because of the conditions people are living in after the floods. We are seeing pregnant women who are anaemic, or suffering from hypertension and some are undernourished. Also, children are coming in with chest and skin infections.
“Recently a woman came to the clinic who was very ill and in the late stages of her pregnancy. We were able to organise a blood transfusion, and soon after she went into labour. It was difficult, but the baby was delivered safely. We’re also ensuring she receives good aftercare. Both mother and baby are well now.”
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