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Addressing the Top Five Causes of Maternal Mortality

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