The persistent negative reports that 11 Filipino women die daily of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth underscore the critical immediacy of enacting the Reproductive Health bill on family planning, responsible parenthood and population development which is pending both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, principal author of House Bill 5043 on RH, made this urgent call as he said that these data which make the Philippines among the worst performing countries in improving maternal health “are not cold statistics but disturbing and distressing figures which demand immediate remedial action from policymakers.”
The lifetime risk of maternal death in the Philippines is 1 in 140, compared to 1 in 8,000 for women in developed countries.
Lagman underscored that “studies by the WHO, UNDP and UNFPA validate that correct and consistent use of contraceptives will prevent one-third of all maternal deaths.” He also stressed that virtually all or 98% of maternal deaths happen in developing countries like the Philippines .
The Albay solon explained that family planning will have a direct effect on maternal mortality by reducing the number of high-risk pregnancies. “Family planning will help women who are at a higher risk of maternal death avoid unplanned pregnancies,” he said.
Lagman said that “too young, too old, too many, too soon” illustrates the undesirable aspects of unplanned pregnancies and avoiding pregnancies in women who fall under this category will dramatically reduce maternal deaths.
According to Lagman, that there are several ways in which this could happen:
1. Fewer births to very young women. The bodies of women under 18 years are not yet ready for pregnancy and childbirth and it is for this reason that in the Philippines , 75% of maternal deaths happen to 15 to 19 year old women.
2. Fewer births to older women. Similarly, women above 35 years are at an increased risk of hemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension and uterine prolapse. Therefore, reducing the proportion of pregnancies among older women would decrease maternal mortality levels.
3. Fewer high-parity births. Studies show that women who already have four or more children have a substantially increased risk of maternal death. Frequent pregnancies are also often associated with less prenatal care and lower likelihood of supervised delivery.
4. Fewer short birth intervals. Short birth intervals are also linked to increased risk of an adverse outcome for the mother because studies show that a woman’s body needs no less than three years to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Thus, the shorter the gap between pregnancies, the greater is the likelihood of maternal death.
“No woman should die giving life and we should not allow the miracle of life to mean death for so many Filipino mothers,” Lagman said.
The Philippines has committed to achieve the Millennium Development Goalsinfant mortality and improving maternal health. (MDGs) by 2015 and among these goals is the improvement of maternal health. The MDGs have recently been amended to include family planning and reproductive health, which underscores the importance of family planning in achieving MDG goals 4 and 5 on reducing
The UNICEF report stating that the improvement of maternal health is the MDG goal “least likely to be achieved by the Philippines by 2015” is echoed in the MDG 2008 Global Monitoring Report which maintains that “prospects are gravest in health, with large shortfalls … in reducing child and maternal mortality…”
“The unsatisfactory progress on maternal mortality reflects not only the low importance placed on saving women’s lives but also the urgency of enacting a truly responsive national statute on reproductive health which will not only promote the basic human right to plan one’s family but also the right to health and sustainable human development,” Lagman said.
Although skilled attendance during childbirth and obstetric facilities are needed, providing women and couples with information and access to family planning and contraceptive use is much more cost-effective in reducing high-risk pregnancies and preventing maternal death, Lagman stated.
Moreover, he declared that “less high-risk pregnancies will relieve pressure on scarce government resources for obstetric care.”
While both basic and emergency obstetric care are provided for in HB 5043, it will be more expensive to provide and maintain compared to ensuring planned pregnancies and proper birth spacing through family planning, Lagman said.