Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the What to Expect blog.
It’s simple: Healthy babies begin with healthy mothers. And being a healthy mother begins with the ability to safely plan your family.
This week, as we mark the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights, I am reflecting back on my own experience of becoming a mother. Almost a year ago today, I held my son for the first time. I remember being completely overwhelmed with gratitude – grateful for our health, grateful for his safe delivery, and grateful for the fact that my husband and I were as prepared as we possibly could be for his arrival.
Deciding whether and when to have children is one of the most life-changing decisions you can make. But unfortunately, for many around the world, it’s simply not a decision at all. In fact, there are more than 225 million girls and women today who want to delay or prevent pregnancy, but aren’t using modern contraception. This number has devastating implications for both moms and babies. Far too often, girls are forced to give birth before their bodies are ready, making pregnancy a leading cause of death for adolescent girls in developing countries. And when births are not adequately spaced, the risk of maternal and infant mortality rises greatly.
But there’s good news: We know how to change this. If we simply met the need for contraception, and provided all pregnant women and their newborns with quality health care as outlined by the World Health Organization, the results would be dramatic. We could reduce maternal deaths by more than 2/3rd and infant deaths by 77%, resulting in millions of lives saved.
It’s not just about saving lives though, it’s also about putting families on a healthier and stronger course. When women can delay pregnancy, they can stay in school and pursue an income. In turn, when they do start their families, their children will be healthier and better educated, helping to break the cycle of poverty.
I want every mom around the world to be able to feel the excitement and gratitude that I felt the day that my son was born. His birth gave my work at the United Nations Foundation new purpose: I am determined that he will grow up in a better world.
To get there, we need to ensure that every woman – regardless of where she lives – has the power to determine her own future. To do this, we must begin with access to quality family planning and reproductive health care.
This International Day for Maternal Health and Rights, join me in helping make access to family planning a fundamental right. Together, we can help ensure healthier moms and babies, stronger families and communities, and a better world for us all.