Attending the Women Deliver Conference in May 2016 was an amazing experience and Safe Motherhood for All members met with others working to promote respectful maternity care.
It was reinforced at Women Deliver that maternity care can either protect or violate the fundamental human rights of women. The concept of safe motherhood is usually restricted to physical safety at birth. “Cultural, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual safety rarely appear in the mainstream debates … Not only do these factors dominate women’s thinking, research indicates ignoring its importance is potentially deadly.” A Woman’s right to control what happens to her body during pregnancy and birth is enshrined in law but this right is frequently violated in practice.
The was much discussion on the usefulness of focussing on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, when the rates in Australia are thankfully low and have generally plateaued. There is significant concern that maternity-care offered in high income countries such as Australia result in maternal and infant harm (morbidity) – both short and long-term. Does the focus on mortality provides a false sense of achievement. To improve maternity services, Australia needs to look beyond mortality data to morbidity data focussing on the harm caused by maternity care, it consequences for the woman and infant and the cost to the Australian community.
We explored the relevance of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which provide a roadmap for global development efforts to 2030 and beyond. The Sustainable Development Goals apply to both developing and high income countries. Goal 3 and 5 are especially relevant to maternity services. This is welcome news for women in Australia especially for those women requiring maternity services. Australia is currently developing an enduring National Maternity Services Framework and we have an opportunity to ensure the Sustainable Development Goals and the Respectful Maternity Care Charter: the Universal Rights of Childbearing Women inform the Framework.
Safe Motherhood for All Inc. has written to Susan Ley, the Health Minister, seeking for the National Maternity Services Framework to be informed by the Respectful Maternity Care Charter: the Universal Rights of Childbearing Women.