The Millennium Development Goal 5 of reducing maternal mortality worldwide by 75 % between 1990 and 2015, unfortunately, could not be reached. Although progress has been made, in 2015 about 303.000 women worldwide died from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. This means 830 women died every day.
For every women who died, dozens more suffered injury, infection or disease. A high-risk group are girls between 15 - 19 years (there are about 16 million on them giving birth each year), because their bodies aren‘t fully developed and prepared for the challenge of pregnancy. In many developing countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among this group (WHO statistics).
The major direct causes of maternal mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour. Given the possibilities of modern medical care, many, if not most of these deaths could have be prevented, if these women had had access to skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery; or post-abortion care and (where permissible) safe abortion services.
Another important clue to changing this situation is, of course, quality family planning. According to UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), about 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy worldwide are not using safe and effective family planning methods, because they lack access to the necessary information and/or services. Wrong traditional and cultural beliefs (such as the idea to prevent pregnancy by omens and magic) lead to unwanted pregnancy. They even can cause serious health problems like infections or sepsis, for example when women put grasses, leaves or dung in the vagina to prevent pregnancy. Access to and availability of quality family planning is also the silver bullet for preventing unsafe abortions. According to WHO, 18,5 million women in developing countries experience an unsafe abortion every year. 5 millions of these abortions result in complications, about 47 000 of them end in death.
Making pregnancy safer for women in developing countries starts with education and prevention. Many women don‘t see a skilled health worker during pregnancy. They therefore miss the opportunity to detect problems on time and receive necessary care and treatment. It is important to spread correct information about how to stay healthy during pregnancy, e. g. what to eat/drink and not to eat/drink or to avoid pesticides, herbicides or factory chemicals. It is equally important to disprove false information such as the widespread popular belief that pregnant women need less food. Women must be told why to go to prenatal check-ups or how HIV infection can affect her baby. They need to know how to deal better with or prevent common pregnancy problems such as nausea, swollen veins or leg cramps. And above all, they need reliable information about family planning and - where legally available - information about safe abortion.
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