Reproductive Health of Women

Reproductive Health of Women

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4357-3.ch001
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The tragedy of maternal mortality in the developing world is not just a health concern; it should be recognized as a human rights issue. The theme for World Health Day for 1998 was “Pregnancy is Special; let's make it safe.” When this theme was adopted by the World Health Assembly, it set a principle in the health policy. Pregnancy is not a disease. Pregnancy is special. Pregnancy, a privilege for a woman, is the means for human species to survive and propagate. When women risk their lives and health in order to give birth to a new life, they have a right to safe motherhood. Pregnancy should, thus, not compete for resources with the disease conditions. It is for these reasons of disease burden, an impact that transcends national boundaries as well as a deep concern about social injustice and inequity along with the availability of cost-effective interventions, that a major investment in reproductive healthcare is justified.
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Key Facts

  • Many of today’s 1·2 billion adolescents (i.e. people, aged 10 to 19 years) were born around the turn of the millennium, when world leaders first pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (United Nations, 2011).

  • Each year, an estimated 16 million women, aged 15 to 19 years give births (World Health Organization, 2013) and a further million become mothers before the age of 15 years (Neal et al, 2012).

  • About 1 in 50 women dying in developing countries from complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion, about 35 times more than their counterparts in the developed countries (World Bank, 1993).

  • These young people have benefitted from improvements associated with the MDG’s including a 47 percent drop in maternal mortality between the years 1990 and 2010 (World Health Organization, 2012).

  • However, studies of maternal mortality tend to calculate single mortality figures for women and girls of all ages.



Being a woman has multiple implications for her own health. Thus, the health-related needs of women can, thus, be broadly classified into four categories (Fathalla, 1997). Firstly, women have specific health needs related to the functions of sex and reproduction. Secondly, even before menarche after menopause, women have an elaborate reproductive system that is vulnerable to dysfunction or disease. Thirdly, women are subjected to the same diseases of other body systems that can affect men. Because of genetic constitution, hormonal environment or gender-evolved lifestyle behavior, their patterns of disease often differ from those of men. Diseases of other body systems or their treatments may interact with the conditions of the reproductive system or its functions. Fourthly, because women are women, they are subjected to social distress which has a devastating impact on their physical, mental or social health.

Concept of Health

In the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 1948). This is consistent with the bio-psycho-social model of health, which considers physiological, psychological and social factors in health and illness as well as the interactions between these factors. It differs from the traditional medical model, which defines health as the absence of illness or disease and stresses the role of clinical diagnosis and intervention. The WHO definition explicitly links health with wellbeing, and conceptualizes health as a human right that requires physical and social resources to attain and maintain it. ‘Wellbeing’ refers to a positive state as opposed to neutral, framing health as a positive aspiration. The Ottawa charter of 1986 this definition which describes health as ‘a resource for everyday life, not the object of living’. From this perspective, health is a means to live well, which highlights the link between health and participation in society (Martino, 2017).

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