Real Costs of Childbirth

24hospital-600 I have many friends that have struggled with their fertility. I live in a world where all life centers around PTA meetings and Halloween costumes and where my single friends hide out in cities where they won't feel so alone. I read a couple of articles this weekend that reminded me that for most of the world, childbirth means serious injury, death, and poverty. And most of the world's women would have less children if they had the choice.

Nicholas Kristof writes a column about the horrors of fistulas, a serious childbirth injury usually occurring in girls who are too young to give birth. He reports on a doctor who is helping to repair the damage on these girls. The Times had a fabulous article on fistulas a few months ago. Here's a foundation that is devoted to repairing this birth injury. 

The Economist has a cover article on the world-wide failing fertility rate. As the developing world gains in economic strength and as there are more opportunities for women to work outside the home, women have less children. Where there is access to birth control, women have even less children. When women have opportunities to work, education, and access to birth control, they chose to have fewer children. More than two children is a burden.

Motherhood is an entirely different experience for the American soccer mom and moms in Africa and Asia. Yet, in the comfort from our safe hospital rooms tricked out with jacuzzis and midwives and epidurals, we still know that dangers that accompany child birth. Without the help of a world class surgeon, I would have died in a hospital room. We need to form an international solidarity with the less fortunate mothers across the world and support international efforts to increase access to education, to provide birth control, and to lessen the occurrence of childbirth injuries and death.

5 thoughts on “Real Costs of Childbirth

  1. Going down my street (in a faculty/staff neighborhood), here’s the kid-per-family count:
    2 (us)
    4 (former homeschoolers)
    2 (divorcee, one school-age child, one preschool)
    2 (little kids)
    1 (school-age kid, had Obama sign)
    2 (school-age kids)
    4 (homeschoolers)


  2. Who is still having lots of children? Conservative Evangelicals. Mormons. Homeschoolers. Muslims. Red States. The future belongs to those who are willing to populate it.


    The religions don’t look all that different. The Mormons are slightly more likely to have 4 or more children, but only 9% of Mormons do, according to this poll. A majority of people of all faiths, according to this survey, have no children at home.
    Catholics and Mormons look fairly similar, on this poll, but there are more than 10x as many Catholics in the survey.


  4. Thanks for this, Laura. I largely agree with you, but I do want to respond to this:
    “When women have opportunities to work, education, and access to birth control, they chose to have fewer children. More than two children is a burden.”
    Not necessarily. It all depends on reproductive incentives; there are no absolutes here (except I suppose an outside limit to an individual woman’s capacity to bear children). The fact is that *every* child is a burden, in the sense that every child requires a high input of energy and maternal investment. There’s nothing magic about the number two. Put different reproductive incentives in a setting with more or less abundant resources, and you’ll get a very different calculus.
    (my equation = SAHM mother of four, wife of oncologist, PhD in literature, Mormon.)


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