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Childbirth in Egypt – Giving Mothers a Say

Updated: May 4, 2022

By Karen Flowers, Country Leader, Egypt

I’ve helped train doctors and nurses here in Egypt, Spain and Dubai, and I can tell you it is possible to practice safe childbirth, under medical guidance, while promoting healthier moms and healthier babies.

Mohamed and Sahar with new baby, Karima

Recently I had the honor of speaking at a Natural Birth Conference that focused on reducing the rate of Egypt’s over 85% cesarean sections. Among the other presenters were scientists, pediatricians, obstetricians, neonatal specialists, infant cardiologists – all giving scientific explanations for the extremely high surgical birth rates in the world today.

But my point that day was simple: Everything in nature has a purpose, and so to interfere with that should be done wisely and carefully.

In the past eight years, I’ve witnessed over 150 babies come into this world. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve had years of childbirth training, and I am a very passionate doula – a trained non-medical professional, who provides continuous physical, mental and emotional support to women before, during and after childbirth, either at home or in the hospital, to facilitate the most positive birth experience possible.

Karen speaking at a Natural Birth Conference

Birth is not easy, it never has been, but historically women were well supported, learning to trust their intuition about how to give birth. Midwives or experienced medical birth professionals oversaw almost all births, and birth usually occurred in the home.

Of course, when we consider why birth practices have evolved over time, the important reason is safety. But in Egypt today, the power of decision-making in the birth experience has been taken away from the woman, her intuition challenged, and her birth experience put almost entirely into the hands of medical personnel. Egyptian couples, uneducated and unprepared, rely entirely on medical expertise to deliver their babies, which too often results in cesarean sections.

Let me share with you Mohamed and Sahar’s birth story. It’s not only their story, but it is also mine, the story of how my childbirth profession began.

I knew both of them for years. Theirs was one of the first street weddings I was invited to after I moved to Egypt. It wasn’t long before we knew Sahar was pregnant. But it was not to be. Within weeks, she miscarried. Sadly, she miscarried several more times.

Then she carried a pregnancy full term, producing a lovely baby girl. For this birth though, at only 14 years old, Sahar didn’t know any better, receiving IV medications she didn’t want while getting no support for the pain. She was not given choices, she endured the process, felt worthless, and abused. A common story in Egypt.

This is when I decided, at almost 60 years old, to go back to school and become certified an Amani Doula and childbirth educator. Immediately after receiving my certification, I learned Sahar was pregnant again. I don’t know how we did it with my very limited Arabic, but together we prepared for her to give birth to another baby girl, Karima.

Big sister, Malik, and Mohamed with new baby, Karima

If you ask her about this birth experience, I know what Sahar would say, because she has told me many times, “it was perfect.” With Mohamed by her side, she roared her baby into the world, and then looking at her perfect baby, smiling at Mohamed, she whispered, “I did it.”

The whole experience of childbirth matters, physically, mentally, and emotionally, but when we only treat the physical, we leave behind traumatized mothers. My passion is to empower Egyptian women to be active decision-makers in their children’s birth.

Whether or not a woman delivers her baby by cesarean section, with or without pain medication, she should walk away from her birth experience saying, “I did it.”

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