In North America, we mostly take it for granted that we and our babies will make it through birth. We assume we’ll have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, a skilled care provider at our birth, and timely access to emergency medical care should we or our babies need it (regardless of our ability to pay.)
I don’t personally know any women who have died in childbirth, and only a few who have lost their babies late in pregnancy or during or soon after birth. The only women I know who have given birth without a skilled attendant present either chose to have a planned unassisted birth, or experienced a precipitous labor and delivery (and received skilled attention soon after birth.)
Are you familiar with the facts about global maternal mortality?
In 2008 an estimated 358,000 women died while pregnant or giving birth. 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable.
Among the 133 million babies who are born alive each year, 2.8 million die in the first week of life and slightly less than 1 million in the following three weeks. Neonatal tetanus kills 100 000 babies a year.
It’s hard to wrap our minds around these kind of numbers. It’s easy not to think about faraway problems and faceless statistics. But each of those women who died a preventable death had a name and a family. Each of those statistics represents someone’s daughter, or sister, or friend.
“Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” Mahmoud Fathalla, past president of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.