To reduce maternal mortality rates, more Indonesians need to use contraceptives, family planning officials say.
“If [mothers] are committed to using contraceptives properly, then they won’t get pregnant and maternal mortality rates will go down,” Sudibyo Alimoeso, director of the National Family Planning Board ( BKKBN), said on Friday.
M. Nurhadi Rahman, an obstetrician who founded the Saving Mothers Movement, said the leading cause of maternal mortality was abortion, particularly among married women who had multiple abortions with only small gaps between their pregnancies.
Sudibyo said a lack of discipline in the use of contraceptives contributed to the country’s high rate of maternal mortality, which stood at 228 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births according to the last Health Ministry survey in 2007.
The government aims to decrease that rate to 102 deaths per 100,000 live births, but Sudibyo said that target would not be attainable because too few Indonesians regularly use contraceptives.
“It might be they’re first-time users of contraceptives and they stop using it, so unwanted pregnancies occur,” he said.
The government should work to ensure contraceptives are accessible, Sudibyo added.
“With contraceptives that have to be used regularly, there must be a guarantee that the right contraceptives are available when they’re needed,” he said.
“There must be cooperation between the city and district governments.”
A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States found that meeting the global demand for contraceptives could reduce maternal mortality rates by as much as 30 percent.
The study suggested that regular contraceptive use could prevent more than 272,000 maternal deaths during labor each year. Without contraceptives, the number of maternal mortalities would increase by 1.8 times, it said.
Sudibyo said Indonesia’s family planning program faced many obstacles, including a shortage of human resources.
In the past, he said, a single BKKBN field officer has been responsible for managing one village, making it easy for residents to quickly access information and consult on family planning. Today, however, a single field officer must handle four or five villages.
“Don’t think that family planning is universally known and that everyone understands how it works,” Sudibyo said.
“The truth is never like that. We have to empower the community to become agents of change.
“The key lies at the grassroots level in districts and cities.”