Sophorn, a garment worker for the past decade, first visited a Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) clinic when she was pregnant with her first child. She returned for health checks each month until, at five months pregnant, she lost the baby. Her second pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage, leaving her distraught. Then, she got pregnant a third time, in 2013.
“I started to discuss with the doctors how to protect my child,” she says. “They gave me medication to strengthen my cervix, which I took for six months. In the seventh month, I gave birth prematurely.” Doctors told Sophorn that her baby girl was health, but she only weighed in at 1.7 kilograms. The infant was taken to a specialist children’s hospital, where she was cared for an additional two weeks. “During the pregnancy I was very worried,” Sophorn says. “I felt so happy when I finally delivered my child.”
Her daughter was born without any complications is now a happy and healthy four years old. In initial stages of her third pregnancy, Sophorn’s friends told her that she would have to undergo surgery on her cervix or have injections to help her carry her baby to term, and doctors at a private clinic confirmed their suggestions. However, she decided to seek a second opinion at RHAC, where doctors instead gave her a prescription to strengthen her cervix.
“When I heard I needed to have that surgery I was very scared, so I was relieved when the doctor at RHAC told me to take the medication instead,” she says. “While I was taking the medication I observed my body and any changes to it, so when I felt unwell I would go to the doctors and consult them, so I felt comfortable to continue taking it.”
Sophorn also went for appointments at a government-run hospital, but found that their services were also lacking. “I told the doctors about losing my first and second babies, but they only weighed me and measured my stomach. There weren’t any more examinations or very much care,” she says. “When I went to RHAC they did so many examinations and had so many services, so I think it’s really better to go to RHAC for these kinds of services.”
She estimates that during her third pregnancy, she had ten appointments at RHAC clinics at a cost of 40,000 to 60,000 riel (£7.40 to £11.15) each time. Compared to just 2,000 riel for an obstetrics appointment at the public hospital, the difference in cost is significant. “It’s expensive for me because my salary is little.”
Despite the relatively high prices, Sophorn already knows where she will go for medical care in the future. “I want to have one more child, and I have already planned that when I decide to do it I will go to RHAC to get my cervix checked first,” she says. Until that day comes, Sophorn is taking the oral contraceptive after receiving advice about birth control from RHAC’s clinicians, with a midwife from the NGO making regular visits to the factory.