#7D4H - Channeling Queen Betty Elmer #MCH

Sundays are often wrought with mixed affect. Many people enjoy the day for the restorative properties it is known to possess. However, by the bewitching hours of early afternoon it often haunts many of us as the “launch point” for the upcoming week, inevitably bringing us back to the formidable Monday madness. I personally find it difficult to be fully present on Sunday’s- yet I always appreciate the time to reflect, re-energize and re-engage with the upcoming week.

Today, Sunday, feels incredibly special as it is the first time I’m wearing the purple dress for 7 Dresses 4 Health. Other then purple being my favorite color, it is also incredibly dear to me as it symbolizes many strong and pertinacious women in my life that I have been lucky to love throughout the years. In particular, it reminds me of Queen Betty Elmer.

Queen Betty Elmer was my mother’s mentor while she was completing her PhD, one of the original advocates for children’s rights. Betty ultimately chose not to marry; nor have children of her own, so that she could pursue a career as an advocate for all children. I was incredibly lucky to be raised as an honorary “granddaughter” to Betty. She always sported purple and generously allowed me to paint her nails every hue of purple throughout my childhood and adolescence.

I think it’s safe to say that many of us have had multiple “mothers”,“grandmothers”, and even “great grandmothers” throughout our lives. Sometimes they are biological, other times the fluid identity of family encompasses those we choose to bring into our lives and families, those outside our genetic makeup. I know that I feel incredibly lucky and thankful for the many mothers that have raised (and continue to raise) me.

It is a real pleasure to pair purple; a color of confidence, empowerment, and strength, to the cause of Maternal Child Health. Who are the women that have shaped your life? Who are the women that continue to shape it daily? Whoever you find yourself reflecting on, I hope you take the time to thank them, spiritually or otherwise.

To begin the Maternal Child Health blog I would like to share some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO), who has been closely monitoring the progress towards the Millennium Development Goals for MCH. These ten facts give an overview of some of the core concerns facing Maternal Child Health today. As you read through them please take the time to pause and see which ones surprise you. Then take the time to imagine how these causes effect you- or could effect your “mothers”, “grandmothers” and “great grandmothers”. Further- I challenge you to imagine what the implications of these facts are on the future mothers of this world. Your daughter, your granddaughter, and your future great- granddaughters.

1. Almost 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth

About 289 000 women died worldwide in 2013 due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. In developing countries, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth constitute the second leading causes (after HIV/AIDS) of death among women of reproductive age.

2. There are 4 main killers

The 4 main killers are: severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortion, and hypertensive disorders (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia). Bleeding after delivery can kill even a healthy woman, if unattended, within 2 hours. Most of these deaths are preventable.

3. More than 135 million women give birth per year

About 20 million of them experience pregnancy-related illness after childbirth. The list of morbidities is long and diverse, and includes fever, anaemia, fistula, incontinence, infertility and depression. Women who suffer from fistula are often stigmatized and ostracized by their husbands, families and communities.

4. About 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year

They account for more than 10% of all births. In the developing world, about 90% of the births to adolescents occur in marriage. In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls 15-19.

5. Maternal health mirrors the gap between the rich and the poor

Less than 1% of maternal deaths occur in high-income countries. The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is 230 per 100 000 births versus 16 per 100 000 in developed countries. Also, maternal mortality is higher in rural areas and among poorer and less educated communities. Of the 800 women who die every day, 500 live in sub-Saharan Africa, 190 in Southern Asia and 6 in high-income countries.

6. Most maternal deaths can be prevented

Most of these deaths can be prevented through skilled care at childbirth and access to emergency obstetric care. In sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality ratios are the highest, less than 50% of women are attended by a trained midwife, nurse or doctor during childbirth.

7. Many women don’t see a skilled health professional enough during pregnancy

Although a large proportion of women see skilled health personnel at least once during their pregnancy, only about half receive the recommended minimum of at least 4 visits during the pregnancy. Women who do not receive the necessary check-ups miss the opportunity to detect problems and receive appropriate care and treatment. This also includes immunization and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

8. About 22 million abortions continue to be performed unsafely each year

Unsafe abortions result in the death of an estimated 47 000 women and more than 5 million complications. Almost every one of these deaths and complications could have been prevented through sexuality education, contraceptive use, and the provision of safe, legal induced abortion and care for complications of abortion.

9. Reducing the maternal mortality ratio has been slow

One target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. So far, progress has been slow. Since 1990 the global maternal mortality ratio has declined by only 2.6% annually instead of the 5.5% needed to achieve MDG 5, aimed at improving maternal health.

10. The lack of skilled care is the main obstacle to better health for mothers

This is aggravated by a global shortage of qualified health workers.

Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team