Giving birth in Afghanistan can be a harrowing, dangerous experience for mother and baby, said Tammy Allen, director of Asia and Eurasia programs for the Stamford-based humanitarian organization AmeriCares.

On average, she said, one out of every seven Afghan women dies in childbirth, and the country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

Part of the reason is that many women give birth at home without professional medical care. Even those who give birth in hospitals don't always have access to modern technology. These and other issues have long been huge concerns of Stamford-based AmeriCares, Allen said.

"Our work in Afghanistan really focuses on helping mothers and newborns survive the complications of labor and delivery," she said.

The agency received a helping hand in that mission earlier this year when the Trumbull-based company CooperSurgical, Inc. donated Tria Fetal Dopplers to AmeriCares. CooperSurgical produces and markets a wide array of products for use by women's health care clinicians. CooperSurgical product manager Steve Valenti said the devices are valued at about $700 each.

The hand-held devices can detect a fetal heart rate as early as eight weeks from conception, which would allow physicians to confirm a viable fetus and, in some cases, detect a potentially life-threatening issue prior to birth. "This could really increase an infant's chance of survival," Allen said. "These dopplers are one of the most impactful donations we've seen (to this area)."

AmeriCares received seven of the devices from CooperSurgical. Five were delivered to Afshar Hospital in Kabul, which treats 4,000 pregnant women a year. Though a relatively modern hospital, Allen said the facility didn't have fetal dopplers. "Essentially, the dopplers improving the quality of care even further," she said.

The remaining two devices were delivered to a hospital in Bangladesh. Though the infant mortality rate is lower in Bangladesh than in Afghanistan, the country has a population of 150 million, and many of those people live below the poverty line. That, along with erratic weather conditions (including frequent catastrophic flooding) and other factors, means many have limited access to medical care.

Valenti said CooperSurgical frequently donates to organizations like AmeriCares, because the company feels a responsibility to reach out to the underserved. "We try to help out where we can, especially in countries where medical care is difficult to get," he said.; 203-330-6290;;