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Reducing maternal mortality through access to contraception

India’s annual maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 45,000 deaths every year. This equates to 5 deaths every hour. One way of reducing the number of deaths is better access to contraception.

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Ease of access to contraception may bring down India’s maternal mortality rates.

India’s MMR fell from 212 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2007-09 to 167 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2011 and 2013 – a reduction of 21 percent as we’ve mentioned before in Health Issues India. . Despite this, we noted “more Indian mothers are dying in childbirth than experts had hoped would be the case by now.” As a result, India is unlikely to meet World Health Organization (WHO) targets.

The WHO emphasises the importance of antenatal care in reducing the MMR. Results have shown that a more consistent plan of care, with regular visits to a doctor during the pregnancy massively reduces the rate of maternal death.

Better access to hospital facilities and trained professionals during the birth can reduce the risks associated with pregnancy. So can regular postpartum care and medical checkups following the birth.

A Better access to safe abortion services could save lives too. India’s abortion laws are, for the most part, liberal. Nonetheless, there is still a social stigma attached to the issue. This – as well as shortfalls in the public health system – mean women often experience difficulties in accessing safe abortion services. This pushes many women to seek illegal abortions, often performed by unqualified ‘quack’ doctors who lack proper training – thus putting the woman’s life at risk.

Abortion however is a disputed method of reducing the mortality rate. A study conducted in Chile (abortion was made illegal in Chile in 1989, yet MMR continued to fall) argues that from 50 years of maternal mortality data, education is the key to solving the issue. With improved education, women were found to be more likely to access existing health care resources for pregnancy, directly reducing the associated risks. This view however is an exception to a majority of nations that have seen maternal mortality reduced with the legalisation and provision of safe abortion services.

MMR could also be reduced by up to a third, if women were  educated in the use of contraception and had  better access to it, claims The Wire. The concept of this is that it gives a heightened degree of control over when a pregnancy takes place, almost certainly reducing teen pregnancy rates. It also allows women to  wait the recommended two to three  years between successive pregnancies.

Potentially an effective way of providing contraception suggested by the article is to merge family planning services with maternal and child care services. This would allow for people already in contact with the healthcare system, such as those in the postpartum period following a pregnancy, to be informed and receive advice on contraception in regards to planning for future pregnancies.

In the opinion of many different organizations and scientific studies the key to reducing the MMR rate is not just to improve the services available to women during pregnancy. Education in regards to what existing services are available and how to utilise them is also of vital importance. A well thought out and well implemented pregnancy care programme is only worthwhile if it is used.

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