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Putting a Smile on the Faces of New Mothers

As a young girl, Uma-Shree Pal dreamed of becoming a doctor and serving her community in Bangladesh. Helping to save mothers’ lives during childbirth fit perfectly into her childhood vision.

At age 35, Uma-Shree is an EngenderHealth-trained health worker for the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), working to educate pregnant women about misoprostol, a drug that can prevent postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).

“I wanted to stay in Bangladesh and serve my community,” said Uma-Shree, mother of a 5-year-old boy. “That is what motivated me to become a health worker, to help mothers access the medicine and assistance they need to stay healthy.”

As part of a program to distribute misoprostol across communities, Uma-Shree works in four villages, home to 3,000 people and some 62 home births per year. She and her colleagues received training on misoprostol through EngenderHealth’s Mayer Hashi project, in collaboration with the DGHS and the Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP).

“The training was very effective and comprehensive,” she said. “It gave me the information I needed to communicate effectively and demonstrate how a simple pill, when taken properly, can save their lives or the lives of their daughters and wives.”

Uma-Shree did not just receive training—she also received flipcharts, leaflets, and stickers, which strengthened her counseling among registered pregnant women in her area. The support base for her work is also strong. During monthly meetings with other fieldworkers in the subdistrict, EngenderHealth staff provided guidance on offering  technical and logistical support for the pregnant women.

Previously, pregnant women in Uma-Shree’s community accepted postdelivery bleeding as normal or did not believe that they could influence the amount that women bled. Many mistakenly thought that the bleeding was simply all the menstrual blood that did not come out for nine months. But PPH is the leading cause of maternal death, both in Bangladesh and globally.

These days, because of misoprostol, Uma-Shree finds that excessive vaginal bleeding is controlled and that, in many cases, the placenta comes out in a very short time. She believes this intervention to educate women and families about the dangers of PPH is saving mothers’ lives in her community.

“Seeing the smile of a woman who has just given birth gives me such great happiness,” Uma-Shree said. “I consider that smile a priceless reward for my hard work.”

Uma-Shree hopes that more community members and stakeholders will participate in the misoprostol distribution effort and contribute to its success. She also hopes the program expands throughout the country, so that all mothers across Bangladesh can benefit.

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