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Update on Croatia Program

By Erin Pfeiffer

Kybele honors our Croatian host, Dr. Dragica Kopic, who was presented with the “Heart of Split Delivery Room” award during the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Club of Pregnant Women and the Parents of Split. Kopic is a leading obstetric anesthesiologist in Croatia and serves as a champion for the rights of women during childbirth. The University Hospital of Split has the largest number of deliveries in Croatia and through 2002 had performed no spinal anesthetics for Cesarean section. Instead, women were given general anesthesia and had no recall of their deliveries. Last year, the number of deliveries at the University Hospital in Split was 4,388; a total of 980 C-sections were performed, and 55 percent were done using regional anesthesia. This incredible transformation is largely due to the vision and leadership of Kopic, who despite barriers and obstacles, pushed for bringing an epidural service and regional anesthesia to women in her hospital. “I will not give up with efforts to change the attitude that women deserve a pain-free delivery,” Kopic says.

Additionally, Kopic was instrumental establishing the Club of Pregnant Women and Parents of Split and its project “Knowledge for Birth Without Fear.” The club, founded as a nonprofit voluntary association of mothers in 2004, aims to use monthly lectures to increase the knowledge and skills of prospective parents and the quality of care provided by health professionals. Mothers themselves provide the impetus and continuing momentum for the club. They organize sessions on expectations of delivery, breathing and relaxation in childbirth, care for the newborn child, basics of breastfeeding and patients’ rights.

Kopic frequently lectures on epidural analgesia in childbirth and promotes its use among both patients and her professional colleagues. The group promotes motherhood and parenthood in general, women’s health, breastfeeding and protection of patients’ rights according to the tenants of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as Croatian policies established to support positive parenting. An average of 18 women participate in each lecture, and a total of 10,062 participants have been reached with educational seminars over the course of the club’s 10 years.

Commenting on the impact of Kopic’s work at the University Hospital in Split and the Club of Pregnant Women and Parents, a woman said: “From the first moment, I experienced her as a sister, mother, friend, in the most important accomplishment of my life. Congratulations, and we hope that humane, empathetic approach to the mother will become a common standard in the Split delivery room.”

Kybele commends Dragica Kopic for her tenacity, advocacy and tireless efforts toward improving safety and comfort in childbirth for the women of Croatia.