It’s funny. Earlier today when I was in the cafeteria and a couple of women were trying to encourage me to have another baby. I am hesitant because I am in my mid-forties. I got pregnant when I was forty and gave birth at forty-one. At the time I didn’t think I could handle having another baby. It was a textbook pregnancy. Everything went well. That was three years ago.
My husband and I decided that we won’t have any more children. We are concerned about the risks. We have heard that the possibility of miscarriages and birth defects increase the older the woman is. I am afraid to take any chances at this stage.
Just a few moments ago I read about maternal mortality on Care2 Make a Difference According the article, one woman dies every minute during pregnancy or childbirth. Essentially, while you read this, a woman, a mother, a sister, a wife, a person, will die.
Christy Turlington, whom I am sure you remember as a successful model, is the director of No Woman, No Cry, a documentary which takes us on a journey to rural Tanzania, a slum in Bangladesh, a postabortion ward in Guatemala and a prenatal clinic in the United States, sharing stories of pregnant women at risk.
Lack of access to a trained provider during delivery is not the cause of maternal mortality. Culture plays a great part in this–more value is placed on home delivery with out the help of a skilled birth attendat; medical providers who judge or stigmatize lower income or less educated patients and the issue of an unsafe abortion which is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.
What can we do to help these women who are at risk of maternal mortality? How can we make a difference? We can watch the film which will debute on The Oprah Winfrey Network on May 7. We can educate ourselves. We can raise awareness. No woman should die giving life. A woman should be able to look into the precious face of the child she has been carrying in her womb and watch that child grow up. Childbirth should be a time of joy not sorrow. It should be about life–not death. Both parents should welcome the child into the world. A husband should not have to raise the child he and his wife had looked forward to having alone.
The five major causes of maternal mortality—hemorrhage (severe blood loss), sepsis (infection), unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders (pregnancy complications associated with high blood pressure, including preeclampsia and eclampsia), and obstructed labor—are all treatable if the woman has access to trained healthcare workers at a well-equipped health facility.
What this means is that no woman should be denied access to appropriate and well-functioning health facilities. Whether it is a mobile health unit or a district hospital, we need to continue to work diligently to address barriers that prevent women from getting the emergency care they need—from a lack of income and transportation to a lack of trained health workers (such as skilled birth attendants and doctors) and hospitals.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has identified five basic emergency obstetric and newborn care capabilities that can be provided in large or small health centers and that are necessary to protect mothers against preventable death:
- The administration of antibiotics, oxytocics (drugs that produce uterine contractions and can treat hemorrhage) and anticonvulsants (used to treat eclampsia and preeclampsia)
- Manual removal of the placenta following birth
- Removal of retained tissue following miscarriage or abortion
- Assisted vaginal delivery
- Newborn care
In the most resource-poor countries, maternal mortality has been attributed to what is called the three delays. These are:
- The delay in deciding to seek care
- The delay in reaching care in time
- The delay in receiving adequate treatment
Source: Every Mother Counts
Change begins with each one of us. As women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, etc. we can help to raise awareness of maternal mortality through a number of avenues such as: Emergency Services; Family Planning; Postpartum Care; Quality Care and Systems and Policy. Make a committment today to take action so that no woman has to die while giving life.