I wasn’t expecting to find a Facebook posting from a friend yesterday morning announcing that she and her husband had welcomed their first child. Their son had arrived three weeks early, and thanks to an emergency c-section both baby and mom were doing well. Phew.
That news prompted me to think about my nephew whose delivery, a little over a year ago, was not easy on my sister-in-law. After hours of labor it was decided that the little guy was far too wedged -- he simply could not be delivered vaginally. So out he came via c-section and today he’s a happy, healthy one-year-old. Phew, again.
Regardless of where you live or how good your health care is, 15% of all women will suffer a complication from pregnancy or childbirth. But a complication does not have to be a death sentence for a woman or her child. If women have access to health services during pregnancy and delivery, complications can be identified and addressed.
As an advocate for maternal health, I am constantly searching for the best way to compel my audience to care about this issue. When I’m talking to a Member of Congress or their staff I might say, “Hundreds of thousands of women die each year; a woman nearly every minute of every day”. And then wait to see whether their faces register concern or outrage at this news.
Today, I might start this way: “Do you know a woman who suffered a complication during her pregnancy or delivery?” Because chances are, they have. It’s so easy to think that the issues facing women in developing countries are foreign issues. It’s easy to assume that the women who suffer a sever complication are those with no access to medical care, and have to walk five miles to the nearest hospital to deliver in a place that, in all likelihood, you will never visit. But that’s simply not true. Because these women are here -- in this country -- and you know them. It might be your wife, or your sister-in-law, or maybe it is you. Complications in pregnancy and delivery are not a foreign problem. They are a global problem. And we can all be a part of the solution if we demand that no woman should die giving life.