Maternal Mortality in the News
There has been a lot of talk recently about the plight of mothers around the world. Save the Children released their annual State of the World’s Mothers Report last month, highlighting the increased likelihood of women and children to suffer as war and uncertainty tear apart their countries. The report ranked each country according to the lifetime risk of maternal death. Finland came out on top as the best place with a lifetime risk of death of 1 in 12,200. The United States failed to break the top twenty, taking 31st place. In Somalia, a woman has a 1 in 16 chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications and consequently is rated as the worst place to be a mother (Save the Children 2014).
The spotlight on maternal health continued in Toronto when Canada hosted a summit that brought together maternal health experts and world leaders to discuss the post-2015 agenda. Canada renewed its commitment to ending maternal and child deaths, pledging $3.5 billion over the next five years. As the Millennium Development Goals are set to expire this year, increased awareness of maternal health challenges is essential in continuing the progress toward ending preventable deaths.
Living in the United States, we do not often hear of mothers dying in childbirth. However, in the developing world, pregnancy is one of the most dangerous experiences for women. The disparity between industrialized and developing countries highlights the fact that most of these deaths are preventable. In the United States, a woman suffering postpartum hemorrhage, defined as a blood loss of 500 mL or greater after delivery, would undergo immediate surgery to stop the bleeding and most likely survive to lead a healthy life. A woman living in Somalia who experiences uncontrollable bleeding may not have access to a midwife or doctor in time before she succumbs to the shock caused by severe blood loss.
The causes of maternal mortality include pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy, severe bleeding (hemorrhage), pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, infections, obstructed labor, unsafe abortion and blood clots (WHO). The interventions to treat each of these exist in the industrialized world; however, in areas with limited resources and unreliable sources of electricity, the implementation of these measures is complicated and often ineffective.
To tackle these challenges, midwives are praised as the “unsung heroes of maternal and newborn health” (UNFPA 2014). In the State of the World’s Midwifery Report, findings from low- and middle-income countries corroborate the capabilities of midwives. Access to skilled midwives can prevent two-thirds of deaths among women and children, making a strong point for more investment in midwives. With each publication, summit and conference, these issues are brought to the world’s attention and inspire actions to change these statistics.
Wikipedia Commons. Maternal mortality rate worldwide. Available from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maternal_mortality_rate_worldwide.jpg*
Save the Children. (2014). State of the World’s Mothers 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.savethechildrenweb.org/SOWM-2014/
United Nations Population Fund. (2014). State of the World’s Midwifery 2014. Retrieved from: http://unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/documents/publications/2014/EN_SoWMy2014_complete.pdf
World Health Organization. (2014). Maternal Mortality Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/
*In no way does the licensor of this image endorse SCIWHF, the content of this post, or the use of this image on this website.