Risk of death in childbirth can be as high as 1 in 7
Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death and
disability for women of reproductive age in developing countries. In Afghanistan,
Guinea, Sierra Leone and Somalia, a woman faces a 1-in-7 lifetime risk
of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth. But in Spain, Switzerland, Canada
and Norway, the risk is 1 in 7,300 or less.
In 17 countries, women face at least a 1-in-10 chance of dying from
pregnancy-related causes sometime during their lives. But in 16 countries
the lifetime risk is 1 in 4,000 or less. Complications from pregnancy and
childbirth kill about 585,000 women each year. A woman faces that danger
each time she becomes pregnant, so the more pregnancies she has, the greater
the total risk. Lifetime risk of maternal mortality is based on both the
risk of dying from maternal causes and the average number of births. No
public health problem shows greater disparity between rich and poor countries
than maternal mortality.
Most obstetric deaths are linked to five causes: haemorrhage, sepsis
(blood poisoning), eclampsia (convulsions leading to coma), unsafe abortion
and obstructed labour. A number of interventions—improved emergency obstetric
care to deal with serious complications, deliveries performed by skilled
birth attendants, family planning, iron folate supplements, a rich and
varied diet throughout pregnancy and prompt initiation of breastfeeding—vastly
improve the odds.
|The risk of death in childbirth increases where women
lack access to emergency obstetric care. Mother and baby recover from childbirth
in a Cambodian hospital.