Apart from the physical dangers inherent in pregnancy and childbirth, mothers caring for their children suffer sleep deprivation, constipation, haemorrhoids, cracked nipples, nausea, social isolation, and boredom. Few people are willing to admit that caring for children is exhausting, difficult, and sometimes frightening. Psychiatrists have noted that depression in women tends to be limited to the period of their reproductive lives. The stresses of motherhood are undoubtedly a contributing factor.
Worldwide, 25 million women a year suffer serious illness or complications during pregnancy and childbirth. At least 12 million women a year sustain the kind of damage in pregnancy and childbirth that will have a profound effect on their lives. And even allowing for the fact that some women will suffer such injuries more than once during their child-bearing years, the cumulative total of those affected can be conservatively estimated at some 300 million, or more than a quarter of the adult women now alive in the developing world. The worst offenders are in sub-Saharan Africa, where women die in childbirth at rates 160 times those of Canada – approximately one fatality in every one hundred pregnancies. The overall chance of dying during pregnancy in Canada is 1 in 7,700; in Africa as a whole, 1 in 21. The ten countries with the highest annual rates of death in childbirth are: Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Guinea, Somalia, Angola, Chad, Mozambique, Nepal, and Yemen.
The national telephone helpline in the UK receives over 25,000 calls a year from parents needing help with their healthy but demanding children.
Children are the single greatest obstacle to sexual equality for women. On average motherhood means a net loss of over six years of paid work. A typical woman in the UK having two children in her late twenties has nine years less full-time employment, but 2.8 years part-time employment. In comparison men pay no such price for parenthood.