Marleen Temmerman, Director of Aga Khan University Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, East Africa, made the observation recently in Dar es Salaam at a symposium on Women’s Health in sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda.
The director said a majority of births occur among pregnant women with no identified risk factors for complications, either for themselves or their babies, at the beginning and throughout labour.
“Nevertheless, the time of birth is critical to the survival of mothers and their babies, as the risk of morbidity and mortality could increase considerably if complications arise,” she said.
Family planning and quality of care at childbirth are also identified as two key interventions to save women’s lives.
“Investments in family planning need to contribute significantly to the overall reduction in mortality,” she said.
According to her, reducing unintended pregnancies through increasing access to contraceptives would avert 54 per cent of total preventable maternal deaths and 47per cent of preventable child deaths.
Temmerman explained that the global agendas are expanding their focus to ensure that women and their babies not only survive labour complications if they occur but also that they thrive and reach their full potential for health and well-being.
However, improving the quality of care around the time of birth has been identified as the most impactful strategy for reducing stillbirths, maternal and newborn deaths, compared with antenatal or postpartum care strategies.
“The time has come to increase the percentage of operative interventions for women who are treated in the public system,” she said.
Globally, approximately 140 million births occur every year.
Each year, in developing regions, more than 200 million women want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.
More than 45 million women receive inadequate antenatal care or none at all while more than 30 million women deliver their babies outside of a health facility.