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Childbirth attracts a lot of medical attention in developed countries, where most women have regular prenatal care and access to various choices regarding their labor and delivery. If anything goes wrong, experts in maternity and neonatal care are often minutes away. In developing, poor countries, the story is different.

Many women are dying in childbirth due to totally preventable causes. Hygiene can be a real problem. Most of the time, labor and delivery are very simple, natural processes that pass without a glitch. But some basic items are needed to ensure safety and prevent infections in births that are otherwise normal and healthy.

That is why the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and other organizations started distributing hygienic kits to help pregnant women without access to professional medical care. These kits come in smart tote bags and include basics like soap, a sterile razor to sever a newborn's umbilical cord, plastic sheets and a blanket to keep the baby warm. Perhaps even more importantly, the "safe birth kits" also have instructional leaflets with pictures that inform women and their birth attendants often just their relatives or female friends what to do in various situations during childbirth.

Dr Henia Dakkak, a technical adviser on reproductive health issues at the United Nations Population Fund, explained the rationale behind the kits: The idea is that most of the time, women will deliver without complication. A child, or elderly woman, or any family member can help her it isn t rocket science. That's great. These kits will help a lot of women. In the West, perhaps there is a lesson or two to learn from these kits as well: birth is natural and safe the majority of the time, and indeed, as Dr Dakkak said, it's not rocket science. Still, we should be grateful to have access to excellent medical care when we need it, which the women receiving these kits don't.

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