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Maternal Mortality: The Causes and the Solutions

Kaitlyn Luckow

Every day, 830 women die from maternal mortality throughout the world. That’s approximately 290,500 women a year who die from complications of giving birth.

According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality occurs when a woman dies while pregnant or within 42 days of the termination of the pregnancy. The majority of maternal deaths occur due to severe bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, complications from delivery, and unsafe abortions. 

Ethnic women of lower socioeconomic status are more inclined by these numbers, as they are four times more likely to die from birth and pregnancy complications than the others.

The good and bad news is that these deaths are widely preventable. There are steps that are being taken throughout the world that have already decreased the number of maternal deaths and there is more that can be done to make this number go down even more.


Maternal Mortality Rates Throughout the World

99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. The largest amount of maternal deaths occur in sub-saharan Africa.  This number directly correlates with access to healthcare and sanitation, amongst other factors. This number is staggering.

It’s also important to focus on the 1% of deaths that are occurring in developed countries--the most of which is happening in the United States of America.

After six years of research, a report conducted by NPR and ProRepublica in 2017, found that America has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developing world. Every year, 700-900 women die from pregnancy or from childbirth in America. The study found many possible factors that contribute to that problem including: lack of state funding, unprepared and understaffed hospitals, and easy access to health insurance.

How We’re Addressing This Issue

As we have mentioned, these deaths are preventable and the world has started to take steps to prevent them.

In 2015, the United Nations launched the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health.  This provided goals to help end all preventable deaths. As a result, organizations such as WHO are working to address healthcare inequality and to provide quality healthcare to all women around the world.

There are also individual organizations, like the University of Miami, Michigan or other colleges such as U-M, who are working with developing countries in order to provide resources and training programs.

In California, a former OB-GYN department head, founded the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative which has launched toolkits for doctors to help stop preventable complications from killing mothers. Hospitals that have used this toolkit have found a 21 percent decrease in near deaths from maternal bleeding alone.  Other states are also introducing more funding and training for doctors. 

What Can Still Be Done

There are many things that can still be done that would decrease the maternal mortality rates both at a global and community level. The most important issue that needs to be addressed is the access to safe and affordable healthcare around the world. This access is important before, during, and after a birth.

Along with healthcare, The World Health Organization recommends every woman have access to the following in order to help decrease the number of maternal mortality rates around the world:  access to good hygiene practices, access to contraception, and safe abortion services.

Along with these healthcare resources, it is also important to educate people around the world about maternal mortality and reproductive health.  

Maternal mortality is a huge risk to women all around the world, but it’s a risk that can be eliminated by specific actions, laws, and programs.


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