The Top 8 Causes of Maternal Mortality

Women continue to give their own lives while giving birth around the world. As per statistics, the end of 2015 will mark over 300,000 pregnancy and childbirth related deaths. What is the effect of losing hundreds of women daily to birth? These women are moms, wives, daughters, caregivers, and workers who support families, and neighborhoods. They play a major role in the structure of day to day life. When lives are lost, communities suffer.

It’s disgraceful that such a wonderful experience can turn tragic for so many expecting mothers and women in labor every year. The beginning of a life shouldn’t mean the end of a life. The United Nations aimed to reduce the worldwide maternal mortality rate by December 2015, something for which they have made great strides. Between 1990 and 2015, the international rate dropped by about 44%. Still, many of these deaths were entirely preventable. The number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth remains a global concern.

Why are we continuing to fail young women of childbearing age? Here are the 8 contributing factors to maternal mortality.

7 Socioeconomic Factors

Maternal mortality rates are significantly higher in developing countries. The connection is evident as 99% of all maternal deaths are related to women with low resources. The highest rates of death occurred in Africa while the lowest numbers were recorded in Western societies.

Delayed diagnosis

Why are the maternal mortality rates so high in African nations? Patients with diverse conditions typically experienced a three-day delay. Often, it took three days to diagnose there was a life threatening situation. By that time, it was often too late. Timely diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference between living and dying.


Seeking help took days to access medical assistance. Travel times were delayed because of unpaved roads, and no access to vehicles. Sometimes, transportation happened by public transportation or with the help of an animal from rural areas, which could take a lot of time.

Healthcare services

High death rates were also associated with poor health care and inadequate services. Developing nations are in desperate need of medical services, and access to emergency care. Out-of-date facilities equipment and ineffective treatments contributed to the fatalities. Many of these deaths were preventable and treatable, and could have been avoided if improved measures were in place.

Reports state that 15% of expectant mothers experience a life-threatening situation that requires medical attention. This translates to over 800 women dying every day due to pregnancy and labor. When examining the numbers, it is obvious that disadvantaged women are in dire need of obstetric care.

A woman’s death equals a heap of misfortunes

Besides the value of a woman for the well being of the family, there is an economic worth to her quality of life. Her loss means the loss of an income, meaning food, medication, and education is also lost. The death of just one woman can upset the development of a whole community.

The disparity between rich and poor nations remains wide, but much more can be done to lower maternal mortality rates. Since we have medical information and resources at our disposal, we have effective tools to prevent maternal death. Increasing the number of health care providers is also crucial. Midwifery skills are in need. Basic prenatal care would save the lives of 1.5 million babies every year. Investing in women in impoverished nations needs to be a priority.

6 Age

When it comes to maternal death, age is a crucial factor. As the years pass for women of childbearing age, so does the maternal death rate. But who is most in danger?

15 and under

Younger moms are more likely to experience danger with childbearing. Reports show that pregnant adolescents aged 15 and younger face the most complications. These young women experience death 25 times the rates of 15- to 19-year-olds because this age group encounters huge social and biological dangers for childbearing.

15- to 19-year-olds

Mid to late teenagers have their fair share of dangers and are considered high-risk. Pregnancy is the number one cause of death for teenagers between 15 to 19 years old. Researchers have found that young girls are susceptible because of financial, educational, and social factors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to initiate programs for young women to educate about abstinence, contraception, reproductive health, prenatal care, and postpartum health issues.

20- to 34-year-olds

Surprisingly, Western women in their 20s and 30s were more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related issues. These numbers are still relatively low compared to pregnant women in developing countries.

35 and older

Expectant women and new mothers aged 35 and older saw a considerable drop in maternal mortality rates in developing nations, but small increases were reported in more prosperous areas. Women over 35 were inclined to have diabetes or more health concerns. Fertility drugs also made them prone to produce multiple children, which created more complications than being pregnant with one child.

Age-specific data fluctuated greatly when looking at the numbers divided by country and socioeconomic status. Calculated another way, increased risks were found with mothers and soon-to-be mothers who were underprivileged. The fact remains that money and education were vital factors in maternal mortality for all ages.

5 Prenatal Care

Expectant mothers, particularly in developing nations, are losing their lives from basic, avoidable conditions. In poor countries, health care for pregnant women may either be of an inferior quality or completely absent.

Preventative health care is possibly the most critical variable to decrease maternal death. By examining the factors that contribute to maternal mortality, health care professionals estimate that 50% of lives could be saved. Prenatal care starts in the early weeks of pregnancy and continues with regular doctor visits. Maternity watch usually consists of exams for various health conditions, physical tests, and medical advice. At least four visits are necessary to keep an eye on the health of the mother and the baby.

The importance of regular checkups

The interventions of obstetricians, nurses, and midwives has proven to be productive. During the 40 week term of pregnancy, prenatal checkups serve to:

  1. - Provide information and advice
  2. - Uncover warning signs, such as hypertension or infection
  3. - Decrease delays in managing medical problems

If an expectant mother experiences bleeding, a routine visit can detect this potentially life-threatening situation. Consultation is a key element that can help women to find medical treatment as soon as possible. Providing information and education is a cost-effective way to avert maternal mortality. Hospital rooms and expensive medications are neither practical nor progressive. Prenatal care, family planning, and safe childbirth are the foundations of a healthy pregnancy and motherhood. These three factors can be used as management tools. The challenge is to close the gap between rich and poor nations where access is concerned.

Naturally, individual cases identify personal problems and determine treatments on a case by case basis. Regardless, healthcare providers should take a stand to treat every expectant mother as being at risk. In doing so, medical practitioners can pursue a system of prenatal care that offers every pregnant woman access to emergency care. In this respect, care during pregnancy is paramount.

4 Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a condition associated with hypertension and protein found in the urine. The smallest increase in blood pressure could indicate this ailment. If the pregnancy complication is left untreated, it can become a life-threatening illness in both the mother and her baby.

It is not entirely clear why pre-eclampsia occurs, but medical professionals suspect certain factors. Poor diet, genetics, and deficient blood circulation to the uterus are conceivable reasons, but certain factors increase your chances, including:

  1. A family history of pre-eclampsia
  2. A previous pregnancy afflicted with the disorder
  3. An advanced age, older than 35
  4. Obesity
  5. Diabetes

Being diagnosed with this disorder in the early weeks of your pregnancy presents a difficult situation. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivering your baby. That can be a frightening prospect for women who have been diagnosed, but paying attention to the symptoms can help with early detection.

Symptoms and signs

Symptoms of preeclampsia can include swollen feet and hands. Persistent headaches, abdominal pain, blurred vision, and sudden weight gain are also possible signs.

If you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following recommendations:

  1. Bed rest
  2. Regular ultrasounds
  3. Medications
  4. Frequent blood and urine tests
  5. Careful monitoring

Maternity care is vital for the management of complications such as pre-eclampsia. Regular check-ups that include blood pressure monitoring and urine tests are also important. Also, early diagnosis and suitable management have a good track record in the process of regaining health.

3 Diabetes

The World Health Organization reports that the leading causes of maternal mortality are pre-existing conditions. Diabetes is one of these problems where the symptoms complicate matters during pregnancy. There are ordinary risks during pregnancy and diabetes will boost these risks.

Diabetes is a global epidemic affecting 366 million people worldwide and poses a serious threat to pregnant women. It is a condition that can worsen during the 40-week term, fueling a genuine risk to babies and the maternal death rate.

Prenatal diabetes is on the rise

Upwards of 60 million women suffer from diabetes. The numbers are rapidly increasing with women who are of reproductive age. These rates are inclined to rise as long as obesity rates keep on rising.

Reports from Africa state that the majority of diabetes goes undetected; the statistic is as high as 80%. Maternal mortality involving type 1 diabetes increased the risk 5-20 times higher than pregnant women who did not suffer from diabetes.

How to manage the crisis

Implement diabetes screening into the annual testing to increase early detection and decrease maternal death:

  1. Ensure diabetes medications are readily available
  2. Reduce the number of people with obesity as a prevention for diabetes
  3. Introduce worldwide standards to diagnose and screen the disease
  4. Trained medical personnel in identifying, following up, and reporting on prenatal diabetes that result in death

Since deaths arise from pre-existing disorders such as diabetes, maternal mortalities can be prevented if these problems are tended to as early as possible.

2 Obesity

There are potential dangers connected to pregnant women who are obese. Labor and delivery become more of a concern when a woman is not physically fit prior to pregnancy. Sadly, obesity has become the status-quo among many communities. In recent decades, being overweight has become a substantial epidemic.

Less physical activity and an overwhelming supply of inexpensive, fattening foods are changing our bodies. Obesity has reached a critical limit for the well-being of the general public, and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of a slow down. A high body mass index (BMI) presents great challenges for the safety of pregnant women and their children. There is a growing pattern of increasing BMI, with 47% of obese women dying of primary causes, and 50% dying of secondary causes.

Maternal obesity can bring about further health complications down the road for both mother and baby. Heart disease and high blood pressure are possible consequences. Obesity can also cause pre-eclampsia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cesarean section births. Overweight women run the risk of increased complications during labor and delivery.

Higher risk of pregnancy-related death

These conditions run an increased risk of pregnancy-related death. An independent analysis shows that obese women have a higher chance of dying in pregnancy if they have diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The call to action begins with awareness. Professional counseling has a major influence over obesity.

Since health care workers have the know-how to avert and treat this widespread affliction, it is vital that obstetricians-gynecologists discuss this subject with their patients. Medical practitioners and clinical care can play a key role in defending against this epidemic.

7. Smoking

It is widespread knowledge that smoking causes cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease, premature death, and many other considerable health issues. Aside from the many negative impacts this bad habit has on mothers, smoking during pregnancy is one of the driving reasons for infant mortality.

The effects of smoking while pregnant

It has been said before, but when it comes to the effects of smoking, it is worth repeating. There are a seemingly infinite number of reasons to stop smoking. During pregnancy, the additional reasons are multiplied. With regards to your baby, mothers should stop smoking because the effects include:

  1. Birth defects, such as a cleft lip
  2. Premature birth
  3. Higher chance of miscarriage
  4. Placenta separation from the womb
  5. Low birth weight
  6. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The benefits of kicking the habit

When you stop smoking, you begin to feel the benefits almost immediately, because your environment instantly becomes healthier. When you quit:

  1. More oxygen will be delivered to your fetus
  2. The chances increase that your newborn will not need to stay in the hospital longer than necessary
  3. Your hair, nails, and clothes will have a better scent
  4. You will have more vitality as a mother

There is no amount of cigarette smoke that is an acceptable level. Even a small amount can be damaging. The only way to safeguard the health of your family is to ensure your car and home environments are smoke-free. Quitting cigarettes can be difficult, but it’s your best bet in ensuring your health and protecting the well being of your newborn.

1 Postpartum Care

Inadequate care after birth is another driver in the high rate of maternal deaths. In impoverished nations, roughly two-thirds of maternal mortality occur six weeks after birth. Again, almost all of these alarming statistics are avoidable. For the most part, the deaths develop because of sepsis, high blood pressure complications, anemia, and other curable conditions. Besides that, for every death, there are 20 more women who endure the pain of infection or have to deal with serious injury.

While prenatal care can ensure the well-being of women and their unborn children, some problems cannot be detected until symptoms arise. This is when postpartum care becomes so important postpartum care becomes so important. If and when issues present themselves, care can be offered after birth. Deficient postpartum care will miss these ever important determinants.

A few statistics

Much of the health care for pregnant women focuses on maternity care. This is indeed an important stage for monitoring, but the period following childbirth requires the same consideration and typically does not receive equal attention. While some women return for doctor’s visits after birth, others do not return at all. In developing nations, less than one-third of new mothers receives follow-up checks. In destitute countries, that number falls to 1 in 20.

It’s important that new mothers receive continued care to ensure a good recovery. Without time to heal, complications can arise. And besides the health of the mother, sparing lives ensures the well-being of the entire family and increases chances for newborns to thrive.

In order for numbers to drop, health care systems need to be enhanced, communities need to work together, and doctors and medical professionals need to access women where they need help. Also, the presence of skilled birth attendants is crucial. Millions of women give birth accompanied only by an untrained family member, an unskilled midwife, or all alone. Motherhood is entirely safer when a doctor, nurse, or trained midwife is in attendance. A professional birth attendant makes sure that the environment is hygienic. Plus, these people are trained to identify problems quickly. In short, a skilled worker can prevent maternal and infant deaths.

Maternal mortality rates are down, yet the number are not low enough. With education, knowledge, and worldwide service available to all pregnant women, we can turn around this worrisome trend of maternal mortality. To encourage maternal health, we need to support and protect the women who bring human life into the world.

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