It remains a global scandal and violation of human rights that in many parts of the world becoming a mother is not a matter of choice for women or for girls. If family planning services, including information about reproductive health, access to birth control, and health care, were available to all women, the deaths of 100,000 women during childbirth could be prevented every year. That’s a third of all maternal deaths. In other words, access to family planning saves lives.
We have seen demand increasing in countries with some of the worst maternal mortality statics, but there are still many inequities between rich and poor and urban and rural areas. For example in Nigeria, among the richest of women in the country, more than one in four women uses family planning methods. It’s a number that’s not as nearly as high as it should be. However, it’s a marked improvement from the poorest women in the country where less than 3 percent use contraception.
So what needs to happen? Clearly, more must be done to reach women in rural areas and to increase demand in places where women don’t even know about family planning methods. It is also important to focus on girls and young women, who are more at risk of losing their lives in childbirth – yet simultaneously much less able to reach family planning services.
It is health workers, most often midwives, who are responsible for overcoming these barriers, by providing education, advising on reproductive health, and distributing services to those most in need. Health workers can be most effective in this effort if they are well trained, equipped and supported as part of a well-functioning health system, and it is vital that renewed efforts on Family Planning take this in to consideration.
A recent study we’ve seen from the Oxford Journal on Afghanistan (one of the worst places in the world to be a mother) shows that increasing access family planning cut maternal mortality by a third – and that was without access to emergency care during childbirth. If that can be done in Afghanistan, imagine what a difference well supported midwives, along with increased access to education and contraception for women, as part of a functioning health system could make around the world
What can you do to help change this? Visit http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org