Program Coordinator: Helena Quian

Contact Us: [email protected]

Maternal Health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

Although positive strides have been made to improve maternal health, great disparity still exists. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with almost all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries.

When scrutinizing the major complications that lead to maternal deaths, unsafe abortion is highlighted as a major cause that contributes to 13% of all global maternal deaths.

Hence, the program was developed for the need of greater advocacy and awareness of improving maternal health including access to safe abortion. Medical students and future health care professionals lack information about maternal health and access to safe abortion both as part of the curricula and in terms of provision of safe services in medical centers. There are numerous barriers to accessing safe abortion services and these include:

  • legal and policy barriers (very strict abortion laws and policies),
  • social and cultural barriers (gender discrimination, poverty, religious restrictions, abortion-related stigma and lack of social support), and
  • health system barriers (lack of facilities, lack of trained personnel and cost of services).

On the other hand, evident inequities in the provision of health services as they relate to maternal health are important to tackle the issue and are needed to properly address the problem. Globally, There is a lack of sensitization and a lot of stigma on abortion-related issues. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, medical students and future health care professionals usually do not have enough skills and knowledge to approach patients, offer comprehensive abortion care (CAC) as well as educate the public on the dire consequences of unsafe abortion and the need to safe services within their communities. There is a paucity of advocacy efforts towards governments and international organizations and this has contributed immensely to the sustained maternal mortality rates since unsafe abortions contribute significantly to maternal mortality.

The ultimate goal of this program is to improve maternal health by building comfort and capacity among medical students and Medical Students Associations on maternal health and peer outreach through our Ipas workshops and curricula. We must ensure that medical students worldwide get values clarification and attitude transformation when it comes to handling abortion-related issues and equitable access to maternal health services. Building capacity on safe abortion within the medical community will lead to effective healthcare delivery and stimulate increased advocacy on abortion-related issues.

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