Viewpoint: Access to affordable birth control is a maternal health issue

Government-endorsed limited access to affordable contraception is not acceptable for patients with potentially life-threatening pregnancies, argued Scott Shainker, DO, a high-risk obstetrician at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in a Harvard Health blog post.

Although maternal deaths are rare, complications that could compromise a new mother's health are on the rise, according to Dr. Shainker. Those complications include hemorrhage, venous embolism, severe high blood pressure, organ failure and intensive care admission.

"My patients, the very ill women whose health and lives may be at risk, and their families, need to determine if and when they are willing to accept the risks that come with pregnancy," Dr. Shainker wrote.

Preventing pregnancy to protect the mother is a concept too often excluded from public and political debates, Dr. Shainker added. "For these women contraception is not simply a choice; it is a means of taking control of their health and future," he wrote.

Contraception serves as a lifeline for the long-term health of women who may be in danger of high-risk pregnancies, and there are too many barriers for women looking for affordable and effective birth control, Dr. Shainker noted. 

Dr. Shainker expressed concern that these barriers will become the norm, especially as U.S. coverage of maternal health issues fails to recognize an unprecedented rise in maternal mortality.

"If government-endorsed limited access to contraception becomes reality, we have only seen the peak of the iceberg in our failure to protect maternal health," he concluded.

More articles on patient engagement:
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Viewpoint: Physicians should be permitted to help patients die
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