The World Health Organization’s 2005 World Health Report entitled Make Every Mother and Child Count examines why 11 million children below the age of five will die this year, and why more than 500,000 mothers will die during pregnancy, child birth and soon thereafter. Gender-based violence, such as domestic violence and hazards in the workplace, “constitute major and underestimated public health problems.”
Unequal relations between men and women effect pregnancy in a number of ways. Not only does access to health care differ between men and women, the report found that seven to 48 percent of adolescent girls around the world reported that their first sexual experience was forced and that furthermore, “women who have experienced sexual assault often fear pregnancy and delay medical examination or health care.”
During pregnancy, women may continue to suffer from abuse and the report notes that studies from Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Mexico and Nicaragua have found that 14-32 percent of women report having been physically or sexually abused during pregnancy and often at the hands of their partner. Violence during pregnancy adds to risks of premature labor, low birth weight, sexually transmitted disease, depression and other mental health problems.
One recommendation the World Health Organization makes is to ensure that adequate antenatal care is provided to all women. Proper antenatal care with trained medical professionals can identify unhealthy aspects of life such as domestic violence and abuse. Providing adequate prenatal care can help women and caregivers identify problems early and provide remedies to women that can prevent serious harm to themselves and their children.
Ultimately, building societies that are supportive of pregnant women by addressing the low status of women, violence against women, and the lack of employment rights for pregnant women can help reduce the instances of death associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The report states: "Even in societies that value pregnancy highly, the position of a pregnant woman is not always enviable. A social environment that accords poor status to women generally also tends to marginalize pregnant women, a major public health challenge all over the world."
To view the report in its entirety, please click below:
Make Every Mother and Child Count
Compiled From: World Health Organization 2005 World Health Report: Make Every Mother and Child Count. World Health Organization. 15 April 2005.