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News Article

Maternal Mortality: A Leading Cause of Death

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 05/10/2022 - 13:57

Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of death for women of reproductive age globally. Global estimates indicate that approximately 810 maternal deaths occur each day and one fetal death occurs every 16 seconds. Every year, 2.4 million neonatal deaths occur and one in five women give birth without the assistance of a health provider with the necessary skills.

The most common direct causes of maternal injury and death are excessive blood loss, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion and obstructed labor, as well as indirect causes such as anemia, malaria and heart disease. Maternal mortality is higher among women living in rural areas and in the poorest communities, as 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Compared to other women, adolescent girls face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy.

This problem worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 2022, Mexico's maternal mortality rate is 53.1 deaths per 100,000 estimated births, which represents an increase of 18.7 percent compared to the previous year. COVID-19 was the cause of death in 42.7 percent of cases during that period, followed by edema, proteinuria and hypertensive disorders complicating pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium.

In Mexico, obstetric violence is also linked to maternal death, according to the National Human Rights Commission. Obstetric violence is defined as a specific form of violence perpetrated by health professionals (predominantly doctors and nurses) towards pregnant women, women in labor and the puerperium. Between 2011 and 2016, 33.4 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 who gave birth suffered some type of mistreatment by the personnel who attended them. Most cases were reported in the State of Mexico, Mexico City, Tlaxcala, Morelos and Queretaro.

Obstetric violence cases included treatment refusal, treatment without consent, imposition of a contraceptive method or a C-section and detention of women and newborns in facilities due to their inability to pay, according to the National Institute of Public Health (INSP).

Through the right care, environment and attention, pregnancy and birth can be a positive experience, ensuring women and their babies reach their full potential. One of the most highlighted strategies to combat maternal death in Mexico is the recognition, training and availability of professional midwives. UNFPA Mexico is providing competency-based education and training using simulators to medical staff. “We also encourage professional midwives to be included in multidisciplinary teams at the first and second level of care,” said UNFPA Mexico.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst