Harmful gender, religious and cultural norms contribute to risky pregnancies in older women and women who already have five or more children, endangering the lives of these women and their babies, suggests new research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP), based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In many low- and middle-income African countries – including Niger and Togo, which the CCP team studied – these risky pregnancies are rarely discussed in family planning and reproductive health programs. The findings are published in the June issue of the journal Global Health: Science and Practice.
“In many settings, it is all but impossible to discuss the taboo concept of spacing childbirths or to even bring up the increased risks to mother and child associated with having too many children or having children after the age of 35,” says study co-author Ms. Erin Portillo, a family planning program officer for CCP and its Breakthrough ACTION project. “We heard one story about a provider who discussed these risks and then clients no longer wanted to see her because there was a perception that she was wishing ill will on them. Long-held social norms are keeping women from understanding the dangers associated with these types of pregnancies.”