By Julia Wiklander, Founder and Executive Director of Girls' Globe
Around the world, women and girls of reproductive age get pregnant -- either by choice, through thoughtful planning, after years of longing or under less joyful circumstances. The news of expecting a baby, another family member, may come as a silent intuition or a shock combined with morning sickness, and every woman's experience is unique.
Yet, mothers-to-be around the world face a wide variety of challenges. For women in least developed areas and in conflict or emergencies, becoming pregnant may pose a risk to one's life. In developing countries, the most common cause of death for adolescent girls is complications related to pregnancy or delivery.
Worldwide, there are women who do not want to get pregnant, but are unable to access (or afford) contraception or family planning services. Imagine walking to the pharmacy to pick up your choice of contraception just to be informed that there is a stock-out, and they just don't know when your desired method will be available again.
In some areas of the world, women struggle with finding appropriate, respectful and woman-centered care, like an educated midwife who can see to the woman's needs throughout pregnancy and beyond. Did you know that 350,000 midwives are needed to ensure universal coverage of maternity care?
For others, the worry of not being able to afford pre-natal care and maternal health services is a harsh reality -- both in the United States and in least developed nations. Many women struggle with the puzzle of financial constraint due to health systems that aren't centered around women's right to maternal health care and legal systems that don't ensure women's ability to retain employment and become a mother.
For me, that morning when I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test, I was filled with excitement, expectations and a sense of craziness. Although my husband and I had been talking about having a baby for a while, we knew that this news was going to change our lives. The thought of survival never crossed my mind. I didn't have to worry about affording care or being able to access a midwife, and I knew that this privilege was due to where I lived.
Women's choices must be at the center.
As we accelerate action for and investments in maternal health, we must remember that women and their choices have to be at the center of those investments. Not only should we address the needs of women, but we must be sure to listen to their desires and choices and ensure that women have access to and can afford information, family planning services, health care and midwives to be able to make informed decisions about their lives.
There are less than 500 days until the Millennium Development Goals are due -- and there is still much action to be taken for expecting mothers around the world. As global leaders negotiate the new Sustainable Development Goals for the Post-2015 Agenda, it is my hope that they do so with a gender lens. Listening to women's choices is essential -- because we are not one homogenous group with only survival on our minds. We all have different needs and desires of how we want to live our lives.
This post originally appeared on the Girls' Globe site.