Good News for Women Everywhere

In the West, the advent of motherhood is usually cause for a flurry of showers, brunches, shopping trips, parenting classes, and anticipatory bouts of wrestling with crippling feelings of inadequacy. In the developing world, it’s all too often still a life-threatening endeavor. Infection, high blood pressure, obstructed labor, and hemorrhaging all contribute to maternal death in childbirth.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1500 women die every day from pregnancy, or childbirth-related complications, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Almost all of these complications are avoidable and can be treated with methods known to doctors since the 1950s.

Global humanitarian organizations like WHO have made improving maternal health a top priority in the 21st century, but improvements have been stilted and slow. Melinda Gate’s announcement that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend one and a half billion dollars over the next five years supporting women’s health projects came as a timely and a welcome piece of news.

This desperately-needed injection of funds into programs geared toward women and children could go a long way toward permanently lowering the maternal mortality rate. Most of the funding will go to services in India, Ethiopia, and surrounding countries with some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. The primary obstacle, Gates observed, is not disease or lack of research but “the belief that we just have to accept the fact that mothers and children die.” Combating this belief and providing resources for local medical centers and physicians to treat common childbirth ailments is a promising first step. Motherhood requires plenty of sacrifices, but survival shouldn’t be one of them.

Image: Federico Mena Quintero

Mallory Ortberg

Mallory resides in San Francisco, California. You can catch her weekly Sex By Numbers column.