Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Maternal health: beauty and happiness

I have recently read “Beauty and sadness” novel (1964) by Yasunary Kawabata, the first Japanese Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1968). 16-year-old Otoko Ueno almost dies of the complications during pregnancy and gives birth to a child who lives just few hours. The father, Oki, a married 31-year-old writer, realizes that offering a normal health care could have saved both mother and child, but the unwanted kid from his young mistress made him take the wrong decisions. After this trauma, Otoko’s anxiety evolves in a mental illness. All her life she will be haunted by the ghosts of the past. On the other side, Oki’s wife, Fumiko, suffers a spontaneous abortion due to an emotional shock; later, in proper conditions, she will get pregnant again and give birth to a healthy girl. This Japanese story, talking actually about global human relations, brought into my attention an important issue then and nowadays: maternal health.

Image: Beni Sanchez
According to World Health Organization, most of the women who died during pregnancy had no access to skilled routine nor to emergency care, and over 10% of all women worldwide do not have access to or are not using an effective method of contraception. Improving maternal health is one of the Millennium Development Goals. The fifth. By 2015, it is targeted the reduction by three quarters of the maternal mortality ratio and the achievement of global access to reproductive health.

In the novel, Otoko finds her consolation in painting,  becoming a famous visual artist who expresses her feelings through colours and forms (in the same manner, Oki will ease his pain by writing, becoming well-known exactly for the novel about the love affair with her). Somehow, art and time heals their wounds and helps them go on.

But in reality, women need more than that. In the real world, saving the lives of women who are at risk of dying of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortion, takes a lot of effort, building a safe socio-economic developed environment with proper education and health systems, efficient resource management and policies.  

Between 2011 and 2015, 33 million unwanted pregnancies are to be prevented and many more lives of women at risk are to be saved, as the UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health targets. Are we ready to accomplish that? Are we ready to turn Kawabata’s novel into Beauty and happiness?

By Diana Adela


  1. I would have died having my daughter if it wasn't for my emergency c-section

  2. It's sad when I hear about all these unwanted pregnancies, yet there are parents out there who only wish they were able to become pregnant! I'm glad to hear that more unwanted pregnancies are being prevented, and that more lives of women at risk are being saved!