We know that women in low-and-middle income countries are especially prone to maternal mortality. Those of us of who write about maternal health and keep up with worldwide maternal health, mortality, and morbidity statistics understand that in the world’s poorest countries we find the worst outcomes for both mothers and their infants. In recent years, we have also discovered that maternal health rates in the United States are far higher than acceptable. In fact, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate than any other developed country in the world. The countries that have the lowest maternal mortality rates are European. But that can be misleading as well.
Safe Motherhood Week , that is recognized each year between October 2 – 8, is the first coalition of partners of its kind to focus on maternal health in Europe. Some statistics will surprise you. Did you know five European women die every day from maternal health complications and in 2013, 1900 European women died from maternal health complications. Additionally, 1 in 10 women in Europe does not have access to maternal health care in the first few months of their pregnancies.
As a mother of two, I did not have optimal experiences either time I was pregnant. Each of my pregnancies was different, but the feeling I had with both of them was identical. I never felt like my physicians really cared about my pregnancies or deliveries, but that I was just a number to them. I have always chalked it up to being relatively young. I was in my mid-twenties. Even still, I believe to this day that I should have been treated with more dignity and respect. Even in two different states, I was treated the same way – with relative indifference. Even though my oldest daughter is 19, I’m still bitter about it.
I know I am not alone.
Safe Motherhood Week surveyed 3270 women in February 2016 across seven regionally and economically diverse countries to ask them about various aspects of motherhood. In its report, profiles of average women in each country were provided. It was surprising that 57% of European women never discussed family planning with their doctors. 46% of women in these seven European countries didn’t feel that they received adequate information while pregnant. Even 55% of the women surveyed believed that their pregnancies caused them not to advance in their careers.
There is a misconception that Europe rarely deals with maternal health and mortality issues and is instead upheld as a gold standard about how pregnancies and deliveries should be handled. However, when you look at the data Europe has its share of problems as well. 8% of European women who were surveyed felt that they were discriminated against and didn’t receive adequate care. In Poland, the feeling of discrimination was higher than the other countries.
Just as in the United States were maternal mortality is on the rise due to the age and health of pregnant women, Europe is also experiencing older women who are getting pregnant. It is a direct outcome from the progressive societies in which we live where women have greater options for their lives including advancing their careers and putting families on hold. Spanish women, in particular, felt discriminated in the workforce for being pregnant. Across the seven countries, 14% says they faced discrimination in the workplace for being pregnant and women in the UK and Germany were more apt to not return to the workforce after having children and/or felt that their jobs had changed when they were away.
Women have a wide range of experiences when they are pregnant no matter where they live in the world – some good and some bad. Safe Motherhood Week is pushing maternal rights in order for all expectant European women to get the care they deserve.
Even though the week is rounding out, it is not too late to become a part of this all-important campaign. Share your pregnancy and delivery story and get published to “Make Motherhood Count”