Editorial: Make motherhood safer

Motherhood was celebrated widely on social media during yesterday’s observance of Mother’s Day in the country.

In keeping with popular sentiment, mothers in the country need to be prioritized for services and resources promoting a range of needs, starting with health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) assesses that maternal mortality remains “unacceptably high” globally.

The WHO and countries aim to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which pertains to reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to less than 70 for every 100,000 births by 2030.

The WHO considers the SDG 3 as an “ambitious target,” considering that the global MMR in 2020 was 223 per 100,000 live births.

This translates to almost 800 women dying every day in 2020 due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Most of these 800 daily deaths could have been prevented, pointed out the WHO.

In the Philippines, one in three births was either “unwanted (16 percent)” or “mistimed (20 percent),” according to the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS).

An unplanned pregnancy means more risks for mother and child. The NDHS also found that unplanned pregnancies occur more frequently among older than younger women.

The health and well-being of mothers and their children are less vulnerable when the actual number of children match or approximate the ideal number of children desired.

The NDHS data showing that one in three births is either unwanted or mistimed implies the limitations of women to autonomously decide what happens to their body, including their health, life-and-work balance, and aspirations for their offspring.

In the 2008 NDHS findings, the current fertility of the Philippines, as measured by the total fertility rate (TFR), was 3.3 children.

This was higher than 2.8, which is the mean ideal number of children.

Education is crucial for raising the expectations of women for their children. The 2008 NDHS data showed that women with formal schooling desire fewer children: 2.7 is the mean ideal number for children for women with college or higher education; five is the ideal number desired by women with no educational attainment.

The 2022 NDHS reflected trends that augur well for women and their children. The TFR declined from 4.1 children per woman in 1993 to 1.9 in 2022.

The same decline is reflected in the TFRs of rural- and urban-based women: from 4.8 in 1993 to 2.2 in 2022 for the former; and from 3.5 to 1.7 for the latter during the same period.

Having fewer children means women face fewer risks from pregnancy and childbirth.

Fewer dependents may mean women are less drained by domestic duties and can tackle other opportunities, such as pursuing higher education and building careers.

The 2022 NDHS data also show that women exercise more autonomy in making decisions and taking actions on concerns regarding reproductive health, particularly in the use of contraception.

Among currently married women, the use of contraception increased from 40 percent in 1993 to 58 percent in 2022.

During the same period, the use of modern contraceptives also increased, from 25 percent to 42 percent.

Aside from being educated and pro-active about reproductive health, more Filipinas also availed themselves of services that ensured proper care during pregnancy and childbirth, such as antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care from skilled nurses and doctors.

A skilled medical provider assisted 90 percent of live births, as monitored by the 2022 NDHS.

Eighty-eight percent of these births took place in a health facility.

Within two days after childbirth, 75 percent of the women respondents of the 2022 NDHS sought a postnatal check.

This practice is part of the safe motherhood programs because the first 48 hours after delivery is the critical period for monitoring the safety and survival of both mother and child.

Through public education and service delivery, public and private stakeholders can honor mothers by improving their health and longevity.