At the Family Planning Summit in London this month, Melinda Gates reminded us that contraceptives are "one of the greatest anti-poverty innovations the world has ever known." As we work to end preventable child and maternal deaths in a generation, reaching the 214 million women with an unmet need for modern contraception will be key to our success.
We know that a mother’s health is inextricably linked to her children’s. And we know the relationship between family planning and reductions in maternal and child mortality is significant. Improving women’s health by allowing women to prevent unwanted pregnancies improves not only the health of the individual, but also the welfare of the whole family and, ultimately, the larger society.
How women are cared for during pregnancy and labor is also an important component of their health. Including respectful maternity care for women and newborns – which is increasingly recognized as a universal right and is an essential component of quality care – is integral to our work. The newly updated Managing Complications in Pregnancy and Childbirth manual, widely used since its publication in 2000, includes new guidance for meeting women’s and families’ emotional and psychosocial needs.
Efforts to improve maternal and newborn health are modest in relation to the dramatic returns they yield. A thriving, happy woman can make a world of a difference in her home and her community.
Koki Agarwal, MD, MPH, DrPH