A Look At Maternal Health Around The World

February 19, 2014

For most people in developed countries, pregnancy and childbirth do not have any major health risks attached to them. Women have normal, full-term pregnancies and deliver babies as a matter of routine. However this is not the case in developing countries. In fact, studies done over the years have revealed shockingly high mortality rates for pregnant women in developing countries and the only reason that can be attributed to this is the severe lack of adequate maternal health and care.

Take a look at maternal health around the world.

Gap Medics students on placement Global statistics

On average, around 800 women die every single day worldwide due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. That’s about 2,87,000 women a year who die not because of war or any natural disaster but in something that is otherwise considered non-risk.  In developing countries, the statistics are even more dismal- conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. It is second only after HIV/AIDS.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality ratios, where less than half of all pregnant women are attended to by a nurse, trained midwife or doctor during childbirth.

Main killers

The four main killers are severe bleeding, hypertensive disorders (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, infections and unsafe abortion. In the absence of proper measures, bleeding after delivery can kill even a healthy woman within two hours.

Most of these maternal deaths are unnecessary. They can be prevented with consistent care throughout the pregnancy, skilled care at childbirth and access to emergency obstetric care. At least one or all of these factors are usually missing in developing countries. Women who do not receive the necessary check-ups during pregnancy miss the opportunity to detect potential problems and receive appropriate and timely care and treatment.

The state of maternal health in developing countries

The state of maternal health reflects the gap between the rich and the poor. In high-income countries, the rate of maternal deaths is less than 1%. Whereas a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth related complications is 1 in 3800 in developed countries, it is as high as 1 in 150 in developing countries. Of the 800 women who die every day, 450, which is more than half the number, live in sub-Saharan Africa. Within the developing countries itself, maternal mortality rate is much higher in the rural areas and amongst the poorer and less educated societies. 

Unsafe abortions add to the statistics

Absence of any kind of sex education is another key factor in the high mortality rates of pregnant women in developing countries. A global survey reported that more than 20 million abortions are carried out every year, most of these unsafe and in developing countries. Unsafe abortions account for as many as 47,000 maternal deaths around the world. Most of these could have been prevented.

All it needs to prevent these unnecessary maternal deaths is widespread education on family planning and easier access to proper medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. The main obstacle to progress towards better health for mothers is the lack of skilled care, which is further aggravated by a worldwide shortage of qualified health workers.