Monday, May 25, 2009

Birth as a Health Hazzard

Two different articles in the New York Times today show the vast difference between women in third world countries and western nations. One article talks about the return of the birth control sponge. The contraceptive sponge was not available for awhile due to bankruptcy of the company but it is now being distributed by Mayer Laboratories (they also make Kimono brand of condoms) and the women who like the sponge as a form of birth control will be happy to have it back.

For those women who don't want to use a sponge, no worries! There are many other choices including condoms, oral contraceptives, IUDs, diaphragms and Plan B (the morning after pill). Modern women can get pregnant when they want and avoid pregnancy with a little effort.

Contrast that to women of Africa where childbirth is the most common cause of death in young women. The World Health Organization reports pregnancy and childbirth kill more than 536,000 women a year. For every women who dies, 20 more suffer severe complications like fistulas and infection.

In Afghanistan, women experience a catastrophic death rate from pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these women have never seen a doctor, nurse or paramedic. In some areas only 4% of the women are literate. Even if clinics were available, women in repressive Muslim countries are not allowed to go out alone or even be in the company (let alone examined) by a male doctor so health care is not an option.

Millions of women around the world have no access to information about reproductive health, family planning or skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth. There are no choices for birth control and getting pregnant can be a death sentence.

How can the human experience be so wide? The contrast between many birth control options and baby showers, jog strollers and high tech, safe childbirth contrasted with women who live on less than a dollar a day and have no knowledge of how they can protect their own lives and the lives of their children.


CountryMidwife said...

I say it all the time and I'll say it again: what is the single most important invention in human history? Contraception. What different lives we'd be living if we of privilege did not have this option.

Have you read The Red Tent, doc? This post reminds me of an early sentence:

And now you come to me -- women with hands and feet as soft as a queen's, with more cooking pots than you need, so safe in childbed and so free with your tongues. You come hungry for the story that was lost. You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them We must continue to work to protect women and babies around the globe. There is so much work to be done. Healthy babies, healthy families, healthy communities... it all begins with healthy mothers.

PS -- for what it's worth I'm not thrilled with the efficacy of The Sponge, but glad it's another option. Free samples online!

Toni Brayer MD said...

CM: Thanks and I had forgotten about "The Red Tent". Great read. A wonderful organization for women (and men) to support is Women For Women International. (See link on side of my blog). They empower women to improve themselves via education and work skills and that raises the standard of the entire community.

Anonymous said...

There is an article in the June "Health" magazine called "Babies after 40: The Hidden Health Risks Of Late-In-Life Pregancy".

flin said...
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