Mothers of innovation: the miracle of midwives and medicine
Motherhood has changed for the better over the past 25 years - but the picture isn't entirely rosy, says UN
Medical advances, social progress and increasing support for women’s rights have helped reshape the experience of motherhood around the world over the past 25 years.
The United Nations Population Fund recently explored how motherhood transformed, and found, among other things, that women are less likely to die while becoming mothers.
“Such tragedies are less common today. Over the last quarter century, maternal mortality has fallen by 40%. It has been a massive achievement – but one that falls far short of global goals.
“At the ICPD in 1994, leaders aimed to reduce maternal deaths to under 75 per 100,000 live births. Today, the maternal mortality ratio stands at 216 deaths per 100,000 live births,” the agency said.
The statistic translates into more than 800 women dying every day while giving birth. Twenty-five years ago, it was much higher.
Today more women are entering motherhood under the care of a skilled birth attendant, such as a midwife.
“One key reason maternal deaths are declining is that more women are receiving skilled midwifery care. Skilled birth attendance has increased from 67% in 2010 to 79% in 2017.
“UNFPA is working with governments and midwifery associations to expand coverage of this lifesaving care, supporting over 700 midwifery schools and training over 115,000 midwives since 2009,” the UN agency said.
In the past 25 years contraceptive prevalence increased by 25% while unintended pregnancies declined by 16%.
The UNFPA said women today are more likely to become mothers by choice, not chance.
“These numbers represent a transformation in women’s rights and health. When women are empowered to choose for themselves when and whether to have children, they are better able to pursue their educations and aspirations.
“Despite these gains, many women still do not exercise full control over their own bodies and reproduction. Today, more than 200 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using safe and effective modern contraception.”
Women are also having fewer children.
“Twenty-five years ago, the global average fertility rate was 2.9 births per woman. Today, it has fallen to an average of 2.5, and this decline is expected to continue,” the UN agency said.
Motherhood today is also likely to start later.
“This change is reflected in a decline in the global adolescent birth rate. In 1994, the birth rate among adolescents – girls aged 15 to 19 – was 65 births per 1,000 women. Today, that number is 44 births per 1,000 women.
“This has been a major achievement for the health and rights of women and girls. Early pregnancy is devastating for a girl’s welfare and life prospects. Teen mothers are less likely to complete their educations or find jobs. They are more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, and their health is more fragile. In fact, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls,” UNFPA said.