ON Sunday, we heard that the rise in obesity is putting US women and babies at risk. On Monday, a screening of Christy Turlington’s No Woman, No Cry at the Women Deliver Conference in DC got discussion rolling about dangers women face in pregnancy and childbirth in various parts of the world (including the US). On Tuesday, Melinda Gates announced that the Gates Foundation will contribute $1.5 billion to maternal health and child welfare; and the Washington Post reported that expecting women and new mothers in America will benefit from healthcare reform.
Though most of these stories end on a high note: with massive fundraising efforts, awareness-raising campaigns and even a little local reform, the talk about women dying in childbirth can be hard to process when you’re pregnant. Here’s some context:
The fundamental issue when it comes to maternal and perinatal mortality is lack of access to quality care. Half of the births globally take place without a skilled attendant and without emergency obstetric back-up care. But about 15% of births are complicated by a condition that can *EASILY* be treated and resolved if appropriate care, care-givers and equipment are on hand. In rural areas in some very poor countries, transportation issues alone creates a barrier to treatment. These causes & conditions have been compiled by the world’s leading NGO’s and can be further explored on Christy Turlington’s website “Every Mother Counts.”
If you are feeling anxious about safety in birth, ask yourself:
Are you getting prenatal care?
Will you have a skilled attendant with you in labor?
Do you have access to emergency care should a complication arise?
Birth, in America, right now– even with record high c-section rates and an obesity epidemic– is remarkably safe. There are lots and lots of ways we can improve the system, but it’s still safe for the majority of women for some very basic reasons. Long ago, women here did die in childbirth– do you remember poor old Melanie in Gone with the Wind? Now we have sterile method, antibiotics, and a clean blood supply. We also have c-sections that, while generally riskier than vaginal birth, are life-saving perhaps 10-15% of the time, depending on who you ask. Complications do arise in pregnancy and birth, but as all of these maternal health advocates keep saying, they are easily preventable.
“Pregnancy and childbirth often end in tragedy in poor countries,” said Melinda Gates, “but that could be prevented at a stunningly low cost.”
video: No Woman No Cry