By Tiana Bouma
Despite progress in some countries, many women and babies still die during childbirth in Africa. 800 women a day die in pregnancy or childbirth and of that number over 50% of the women are from Sub Saharan Africa. Globally, 3 million newborns die each year and there are 2.6 million stillbirths, with Africa accounting for more than half of both numbers.
Adolescent girls (ages 15-19) are at high risk of childbirth and pregnancy related complications. For many women in African countries, no nurses or doctors are available to assist in childbirth. There is a 1 in 160 probability that a 15-year-old woman will eventually die from maternal causes in developing countries versus 1 in 3,700 in developed countries.
In Liberia 221 in every 1,000 cases of pregnancy are adolescents. According to WHO, the main causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding after birth, post-childbirth infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. This is made even more complicated when women cannot make decisions about their own health. In general, 95% of married girls under the age of 19 in sub-Saharan Africa have no say over whether to access or use contraceptives”. (UN Population Fund)
Poverty fuels maternal mortality. The combination of distance, a lack of information, and poverty means that women in remote parts of Africa have no access to health care at all. Illiteracy, poverty, and weak health care systems specifically hamper progress in maternal health.
The solution for preventing unnecessary deaths in pregnancy is to offer adequate maternity care during the entire pregnancy, during birth, and as follow up. Educating women about their choices, what happens during the pregnancy, and offering contraceptives is also vital. These women and adolescents deserve the best possible chance for themselves and their babies and the simple, easy steps that can be taken such as education will have a far-reaching impact.