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To reduce maternal deaths, birth control is key

OPINION
By Spencer Anyango | October 9th 2021

About 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications around the world everyday with nearly all the deaths occuring in developing countries, a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicated.

In Kenya, the maternal mortality rate currently stands at 362 out of every 100,000 live births.  

Most of the deaths are the result of heart disease and stroke, which increase high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The damage they cause to the lining of the arteries makes pregnant mothers more susceptible to the buildup of plaque which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain failure.

HIV and complications of unsafe abortion are also common indirect causes of maternal deaths reported worldwide. Haemorrhage is responsible for 27 per cent of the deaths while unsafe abortions account for up to 8 per cent.

In terms of age, women under 20 years were found to be at greater risk of dying due to complications of hypertension, whereas women 35 years and older were at greater risk of dying of obstetric haemorrhage, ectopic pregnancies, embolism, a cute collapse and pre-existing medical diseases.

These problems are exacerbated by poor health infrastructure, low rate rate of skilled birth attendance, low access to family planning services and high rates of adolescent pregnancy. It’s only about 46 per cent of women who uses modern methods of birth control, which by allowing women to space and plan their pregnancies reduces the risk of maternal deaths.

Unplanned pregnancy especially for someone who is married can be devastating. This is why most young women resort to having unsafe abortions as the best actions to reveal them from the burden that comes with it not knowing that it’s the best action leading to maternal deaths.

Cultural beliefs and practices are also one of the reasons why women are dying of maternal death and this comes with this cultures that do not endorse hospital visits.

Some churches have spiritual beliefs that God Heals and not the hospital as a result of their ignorance a pregnant woman end up dying of minor complications.

To minimise maternal and neonatal deaths, WHO should push for universal health coverage to ensure comprehensive maternal and newborn healthcare.

Health systems should be strengthened to collect high quality data in order to respond to the needs and priorities of women and girls.

To avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted pregnancies. All women including adolescents need access to contraceptives and safe abortion services to the full extent of the law. Quality post-abortion care is also paramount.

The government should further protect the rights of adolescent girls and provide them with lifesaving information and services to increase health care and thus save lives.  

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