Maternal Healthcare in Impoverished Communities

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SEATTLE, Washington — Women are some of the most vulnerable members of the population, especially during pregnancy and new motherhood. People in impoverished areas of the world face insurmountable challenges when it comes to getting proper medical care. Proper maternal healthcare in impoverished communities is rare. Due to the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, maternal healthcare is a necessity and a right to all mothers across the map, regardless of race, culture, religion or socioeconomic status. Yet, many in low-income countries face barriers to good maternal healthcare.

Low Antenatal Care and Skilled Birth Assistance

Sanni Yaya and Bishwajit Ghose write about preventable pregnancy-related mortalities in various countries and specifically, poor regions of those countries. They found that, in low-income regions, antenatal care has especially low rates when compared to other pregnancy and childbirth medical interventions. However, both antenatal care and skilled birth assistance are dangerously low in many areas.

The most inequalities for these two forms of maternal healthcare were in Asia and Africa. Interestingly, some countries had a high rate of antenatal care but a low rate of skilled birth assistance and vice versa. Ultimately, both of these discrepancies need to be addressed. Doing so would help mother and infant mortality rates dramatically decrease with proper access to maternal healthcare.

Determining Cause of Death

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta and Robert E. Black report that countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest rates of maternal, neonatal and child deaths. Poverty and lack of education result in difficulties performing proper autopsies on these victims. Therefore, determining the cause of death, which could help prevent future deaths, is not an easy feat. Maternal deaths are some of the most mysterious, with only limited and dated information available. Statistics often show HIV-related deaths among mothers and pregnant women separately. HIV-related deaths make up a large number of these tragic cases.

They also found that lack of access to proper maternal healthcare is rampant in poor environments, both rural and urban. Poverty’s effects on health are not limited to medical care. Malnutrition and war zones also have detrimental consequences that affect the wellbeing of people. This especially includes mothers and pregnant women, who are some of the most vulnerable members of poor populations.

Inequality in Maternal Healthcare

According to Tanja A.J. Houweling, Carine Ronsmans, Oona M.R. Campbell and Anton E. Kunst of the World Health Organization, there are actually greater inequalities in maternal healthcare before and during childbirth than in child immunization rates and childhood illness treatment. They report that some of these inequalities can be traced back to cultural differences, for instance, a mother who is devout to her culture or religion may only want a traditional birth attendant with her, not a medical professional. But,  many of these inequalities are clearly the result of healthcare discrepancies due to income differences.

Several other factors in this discrepancy include lack of access to proper medical equipment, especially common in rural hospitals, and lack of affordability. The cost of delivering a baby can be anywhere between 3% and 26% of a household’s annual income under normal circumstances. Any complications, like the need for a cesarean section, can cost up to 138% of a household’s annual income. These costs may discourage pregnant mothers from going to the hospital despite potential risks, as they cannot afford the costs.

NGOs Combating Maternal Healthcare in Impoverished Communities

These maternal healthcare statistics are troubling but there are organizations dedicated to tackling these issues. Safe Mothers, Safe Babies (SAFE) works to improve maternal healthcare in Uganda and reduce maternal and child mortality rates. The organization’s model tackles the three biggest challenges to maternal healthcare: deciding whether to seek care, being able to access care and being able to access quality care.

The Orange Foundation works to improve maternal and infant with projects in areas like Madagascar, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For example, the organization helped to provide a district in Madagascar with a permanent obstetrical ultrasound service.

ARMMAN is a nonprofit organization in India, committed to improving the wellbeing of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children in the first five years of their life. The organization implements sustainable interventions in underprivileged urban and rural communities in India.

No country should ignore the challenges of accessing proper maternal healthcare. With the proper assistance, mothers and children in poor countries can survive, thrive and live better quality lives.

Levi Reyes
Photo: Unsplash

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