Why We Still Need to Talk about Maternal Mortality, and What We Can Do to Prevent It

Although women are benefitting from massive healthcare improvements in pregnancy and childbirth in the last century, many of them still die from complications and not all women receive equal access to these healthcare opportunities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications every day. At the end of 2015, about 303,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these deaths happened in developing countries and could have been prevented.

These shocking statistics reflect unequal access to healthcare services and highlight the gap between the rich and the poor. In fact, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries and more than half of these deaths occur in humanitarian settings. In addition, for every 100,000 live births, the maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is 239 compared to 12 in developed countries. Moreover, the probability that a 15-year-old woman will die from a maternal cause is 1 in 4900 in developed countries compared to 1 in 180 in developing countries.

Many of these women die from complications during and after pregnancy and childbirth. According to the WHO, the complications that account for nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Infections
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Complications during child delivery
  • Unsafe abortion

A lot of these maternal deaths can be prevented as healthcare providers know the solutions that could prevent or manage these complications. For instance, severe bleeding after child delivery can be managed by injecting oxytocin while infection after childbirth could be avoided by exercising proper hygienic techniques and recognizing possible signs of infection early in the process.

However, many of these women, particularly those residing in remote areas, are still not capable of receiving adequate healthcare services. In fact, according to the WHO, only 51% of women in low-income countries benefit from these healthcare services during childbirth. In addition, poverty, lack of information, and long distance are some other factors that bar women from receiving the proper care they need.

While there has been an increase in political will, as demonstrated recently in The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030 campaign launched by the UN Secretary General, these efforts are not enough. We invite you to join us and the WHO in raising awareness of this global crisis. To learn more about these statistics, please visit the Maternal Mortality page of the WHO website.

Cover photo credit: Robert Yates/Department for International Development/Wikimedia

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Category: Maternal and Child Health    SRHR
Tagged with: Maternal Health    Reproductive Health