Top Causes of Maternal Mortality
Maternal mortality often increases in countries where poverty levels are high. According to the World Health Organization, 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. This is because women do not always have access to sanitary birthing conditions, proper doctors or procedures for remedying labor complications.

However, some causes of maternal mortality are much more prominent than others, taking the lives of mothers every day. These are the top five causes of maternal mortality:

  1. Hemorrhaging, typically postpartum, claims the largest number of lives out of all the causes of maternal death. According to UNICEF, 27 percent of all maternal mortalities are due to hemorrhaging.Postpartum hemorrhaging refers to extremely heavy bleeding after giving birth. This bleeding should stop relatively soon as the uterus contracts to push out the placenta but if the contractions are not strong enough, blood may flow freely, causing a hemorrhage. Medical solutions to postpartum hemorrhaging may include getting a blood transfusion, which is incredibly difficult in remote and low-income parts of developing countries. 
  2. The existence of pre-existing conditions that are aggravated by pregnancy is the second leading killer of mothers during labor. There are many medical conditions that, when coupled with pregnancy, can cause death. In many cases of maternal mortality, mothers are unaware of pre-existing conditions or they are unable to access safe abortions because they are illegal or too expensive in their country.
  3. Hypertension during pregnancy is when a woman has high blood pressure during pregnancy. If it continues beyond week 20 of the pregnancy, it can lead to preeclampsia, causing complications for both mother and child. Preeclampsia can cause maternal mortality if not recognized and treated quickly.
  4. Maternal sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is the body’s natural response to an infection, but it can quickly overwhelm the body’s functions and make it unable to cope. According to UNICEF, maternal sepsis claims eleven percent of maternal mortalities.Sepsis does have early warning signs, but these can be hard to notice and the situation can quickly become dangerous. In areas where access to antibiotics is limited, where it is difficult to reach a hospital quickly or where doctors are not properly trained, maternal sepsis may go unnoticed or untreated, resulting in maternal mortality. 
  5. Unsafe or unsanitary abortions are responsible for eight percent of maternal mortalities. In low-income or developing nations, abortions may be illegal, forcing pregnant women to turn to homemade abortions or local methods. Often times, abortions that are done without proper techniques, tools or sanitation lead to infection and eventually death.

These are the top causes of maternal mortality, all of which can be remedied through increased funding and accessibility to proper medical facilities in developing nations. More often than not, women are left without the money or access to solutions for their medical issues, perpetuating the cycle of maternal mortality.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

Considering that the reduction of the child mortality rate is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it seems that with recent awareness towards public health concerns in India growing, this goal may actually become a reality in the country. India boasts the highest child mortality rate in the world, as well as the highest rate of maternal deaths globally, with the latter standing at one death every 10 minutes. Because of this, Acumen Fund, a U.S. nonprofit organization, and Indian multi-product company HLL Lifecare Limited have teamed up to create LifeSpring, a network of maternity and child healthcare hospitals that provide maternal health services to lower-income Indian families at affordable prices. In April 2010, LifeSpring became the first chain of healthcare providers to join the Business Call to Action, a global leadership effort for companies with core business initiatives to commit to meeting the MDGs. LifeSpring specifically has committed to the fifth and least progressive MDG, which focuses on decreasing the maternal death rate by 75 percent. LifeSpring opened up their first hospital in 2005, just outside the southern Indian city of Hyderabad in Moula Ali, and since then has grown to become the largest chain of maternity hospitals in South India. The hospital chain boasts nine small hospitals throughout Hyderabad with plans to expand to 30 hospitals located in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad by 2017. Due to poor health, unsafe home births, and scarce access to quality healthcare, lower-income Indian women often face damaging risks during pregnancy. In fact, more than 100,000 pregnancy-related deaths occur annually in India. Most of these deaths are preventable if a sufficient and standardized level of care is given. However, finding quality healthcare in India can be difficult for poorer individuals. The free healthcare provided to pregnant women and newborns in public hospitals lacks efficiency, transparency, and quality services. For these reasons, many Indian women choose to deliver at private hospitals, but often have to take out loans to finance the delivery. LifeSpring has become a successful alternative to this double-edged sword that exists in the public health system in India. Using a market-based approach of keeping healthcare prices low by cutting costs on infrastructure and using midwives instead of doctors, LifeSpring has been able to provide quality and affordable services to expectant mothers and newborn babies in India. The small chain of hospitals actually offers lower-income mothers the same healthcare and delivery services found at private hospitals at rates 30 to 50 percent lower than market prices. In addition to caring for the mothers during their deliveries, LifeSpring also offers prenatal and postnatal healthcare services, along with offering free vaccinations to babies at its Moula Ali hospital. The organization also engages in community outreach programs in which outreach workers and nurses go door to door within LifeSpring communities and follow up with new mothers and their newborns. – Elisha-Kim Desmangles Sources: LifeSpring, UNDP, India Today, Acumen, Forbes India Photo: Acumen