Effect of maternal-newborn ill-health on households: economic vulnerability and social implications
Author(s): Hutton G
Publisher: World Health Organization
Publication date: 2006
Number of pages: 91
Pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful and life-changing events. They can also bring potential for illness and suffering. Women from economically developing societies are especially vulnerable during these periods. The overall objective of this paper is to undertake a review of the evidence base on economic vulnerability and social implications in relation to maternal and newborn ill-health, and to highlight the major gaps in this evidence base.
The social implications of ill-health have received little attention in publications; the searches undertaken have not brought to light empirical literature from developing countries explicitly linking maternal and newborn health status with decision-making at household level. Some studies deal with the impact of health-related expenditures (e.g. catastrophic expenditures) on family budgets, and on ways of dealing with this problem, but none appears to relate to episodes of maternal or newborn illness, and no studies detail the impact of maternal or newborn ill-health on participation in social life. A few studies describe social and family networks that help the mother get through this difficult period, especially in the presence of illness. In more traditional societies, family and relatives tend to provide emotional and material support, including rituals, whereas the wider social networks are more important for information and comparison support. Both have implications concerning how women deal with illness, including the search for health care.
Further research should focus on a better understanding of the relationship between health and household economy specifically related to maternal and newborn health, making use inter alia of the increasing number of comprehensive household surveys on the same households over time. What is needed is a deeper understanding of the implications of maternal complications and newborn conditions on the social standing of the family, on the woman herself, and on her ability and that of her family to participate in the social life of the community. In view of the psychological disorders associated with the perinatal period, and implications (knock-on effect) for the general well-being of the family, this topic deserves to be examined further through a more detailed literature review.