A Matter of Life and Death

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.

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5 comments on “A Matter of Life and Death

  1. […] but weeks later, when we were talking about her birth. “What would happen to me and to my baby if there was no hospital to go to?“ Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. […] but weeks later, when we were talking about her birth. “What would happen to me and to my baby if there was no hospital to go to?“ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was […]

  3. Yvonne says:

    Hi Sora , I am amazed to learn that you will be going to the Philipines . How wonderful that you can use your skills to address this issue.

    I learned about this issue through the work of Christie Terlington (sp?) I had no idea of the numbers involved. It really shook me. Keep me posted when you get there. Maybe we can do some small thing to help.

    Love to you and yours,

    Yvonne Tessier

  4. sorac says:

    Yvonne, thanks for your comment. We’re definitely planning to update regularly and you should be able to subscribe to the blog to get new posts emailed to you.

    I would really like to see Christy Turlington’s film — http://everymothercounts.org/film — it screened in Columbus back in April but I was not able to make it there that day. Jennie Joseph, the Florida-based CPM featured in the film, is doing some fantastic things to reduce maternal/infant health disparities in urban minority populations here in the US.

  5. RJ says:

    ““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.”
    And the day mainstream feminists start agitating about THIS, instead of abortion-on-demand, the evils of marriage, and how women can be firefighters and combat pilots and plumbers but heaven forbid they want to be mothers … I’ll have a lot more respect for them.

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