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Maternal Mortality in the Developing World

Updated on November 19, 2011

Statistics indicate maternal mortality rates in developing countries contrast significantly with those of western societies. In many cases, maternal death could be easily prevented by ensuring all people have access to basic medical resources, medically trained personnel, and relevant education.The issue of maternal death in developing nations will be further explored as well as the contributing factors in maternal death, and possible methods to control those factors.

In many undeveloped countries annual mortality rates resulting from childbirth-related complications are significantly higher than those of developed nations. For the past few decades, annual maternal mortality rates have been consistently over half a million worldwide. Approximately 1,500 women are dying each day due to childbirth related issues, with particular regularity in Africa and Southern Asia. Complications such as postpartum haemorrhage and obstructed labour requiring a caesarean are the major contributing factors in these deaths. Due to a shortage of skilled medics and clinicians in rural areas, simple complications such as these are unable to be treated effectively.

Consequently, rural areas record the highest rates of neo-natal and maternal deaths, particularly in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the lowest rates of skilled medical attendance during births are recorded.According to recent statistics these rural areas are half as likely to have a birth attended by skilled medical professionals than urban areas, which correlates notably with maternal fatality statistics in those rural regions. Furthermore, statistics highlight a significant gap between first and third world maternal mortality rates. For example, a woman in Nigeria has a 1in 7 chance of dying during childbirth, in comparison to 1 in 47,600 for a woman in Ireland. This example illustrates how remarkable the difference in the fatality rates of first and third world countries are. It also strongly suggests the existence of birth related issues in developing nations.

High rates of maternal death can be attributed to a range of issues. Presently, skilled medics attend only 59 percent of births in developing countries, due largely to the limited access to isolated rural villages and families. Poverty also presents a problem, in that many families lack the means of financing medical services. Shortages of suitably equipped medical clinics within reasonable distances of rural communities, and once again, the means for poverty stricken families to afford these services are also major problems.

Maternal deaths are further attributed to injuries, infections, and disabilities, all resulting from unassisted childbirth. Another factor is the lack of education rural areas receive in relation to such matters as postnatal complications, nutrition, and awareness of early warning signs of potential complications. Moreover, maternal deaths for some cultures stem from the issue of child marriage and its subsequent outcome of premature pregnancy, in which the risks of maternal death are increased. Some studies have also suggested that the oppression of women in some communities is closely linked with maternal mortality rates in those regions. Many of these issues have been minimised in western societies. Therefore, the introduction of western fundamental concepts regarding childbirth in these areas would assist in the effective control of these issues.

The rate of maternal deaths in developing countries could be significantly reduced with the introduction of some simple control measures. Most importantly, by ensuring that all births are attended by skilled health workers such as midwives, nurses, or doctors. The presence of skilled health workers during and after childbirth would significantly reduce the chance of complications that lead to what should be an easily preventable death. For instances of major obstetric complication, a suitably equipped maternity centre should be made available to all communities, ideally within two hours journey.Antenatal and postnatal visits from health professionals and better access to contraception would also be considerably beneficial. Additionally, an important element in reducing maternal death is education.

Education of women plays an important role in reducing the number of maternal deaths. Access to education is essential in improving women’s maternal health and subsequently, the health of their children. Education also helps to protect girls from child marriage, with its inexorable consequences of premature pregnancy. Childbirth and pregnancy related deaths account for the deaths of 70,000 women every year and are currently the leading causes of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.

In addition to the issue of children being forced into marriage and premature pregnancy, the social status of women in many regions contributes to the high rate of maternal deaths. Links are proven to exist between the oppression of women in developing countries and maternal mortality. Accordingly, maternal health should be treated as a fundamental human right to improve the rate of maternal deaths. Initiatives to improve the state of maternal health, along with measures to promote women’s rights in under-developed countries are crucial elements in reducing the rate of maternal mortality in third world countries.

Although some childbirth related deaths are unable to be avoided, the amount can be significantly reduced by the implementation of the solutions explored here. Most importantly, the simple presence of skilled health workers during and after labour; access to medical facilities, clinics and contraception; and the ongoing education of girls and women on pregnancy related issues, danger signs, and nutrition. These basic amenities that are taken for granted in western society are severely lacking in developing countries and this lack is resulting in an unacceptable, high death rate of women and children each year.


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    • Jaims profile image

      Jaims 6 years ago from North Queensland

      Dont be silly!

    • profile image

      Shuting 6 years ago

      it is not easy for a panda to be pregnant. guess one day science will help this problem too.

    • Jaims profile image

      Jaims 6 years ago from North Queensland

      Thanks for your comment Rednickle. The statistics are certainly appalling.

    • rednickle profile image

      rednickle 6 years ago from New Brunswick Canada

      Hmm great insight here and you have clearly done your homework on this one.I like the presentation of details here and more importantly the fact the you chose to focus on this topic . thumbs up