Experts Debate Pros, Cons Of Sierra Leone’s Ban On Traditional Birth Attendants

The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog asks whether Sierra Leone was right to ban traditional birth attendants (TBAs) from assisting deliveries 18 months ago, writing, “Although [TBAs] are often poorly trained and sometimes use unsafe delivery procedures, for most women in rural Sierra Leone they are a lifeline.” The blog writes that “some experts believe women are putting themselves at serious risk by relying on TBAs, who cannot handle obstetric complications such as hemorrhage, eclampsia and obstructed labor, conditions that account for three-quarters of maternal deaths,” but, “[i]n areas where dense jungle and impassable roads make travel nigh-on impossible, the TBAs may also be the only available helping hand.”

The blog quotes a number of experts regarding the pros and cons of TBAs and concludes, “For women in the cities of Sierra Leone who can easily access skilled medical care, the [country’s] Free Health Care Initiative looks set to improve maternal health. For the majority in rural areas, though, the TBAs appear the only option” (Whitaker, 1/17).