Both women and infants are vulnerable in the days and weeks following childbirth. Therefore, this is a crucial time for health interventions, post-natal visits, good hygiene and looking for red flags when it comes to the potential problems associated with maternal and newborn health. However, according to reports from the WHO and UNICEF, many women in developing countries are still facing huge risks in childbirth and afterwards.
One report released by UNICEF in 2009 showed that women in developing countries are 300 times more likely to die during childbirth or from pregnancy related complications than women living in developed countries. In addition, children are around 14 times more likely to die in the first month of their life. As the survival and health of mothers and infants are strongly linked, any interventions aimed at pregnant women should also benefit newborns and improve their chance of survival.
Who is at risk?
Despite the progress that’s been made in under-five death rates in recent years, the WHO have warned that nowhere near enough progress has been made in addressing the risks for women in developing countries after giving birth. In some countries, the risks are still unacceptably high, and efforts need to be made i order to close the gap between the richest and poorest countries. In developed countries, the probability of maternal death is 1 in 8,000; in some developing countries it’s as high as 1 in 76.
Over half of all maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and a third occur in South Asia. Those are highest risks include women in rural areas, women living in poorer communities with less access to healthcare and young adolescents. According to Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director “Every year, more than half a million women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications, including about 70,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 19. Since 1990, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth have killed an estimated 10 million women.”
Improving maternal health and reducing risks in childbirth is one of the WHO’s priorities. Access to healthcare and trained medical staff is crucial when it comes to dealing with complications that can arise during childbirth. Some of the major complications that can occur, accounting for nearly three quarters of maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure/preeclampsia or delivery complications.
One of the key recommendations to bring down the mortality rates in these areas is introducing health systems that integrate home, community, outreach and facility based care. Under the current health models, the emphasis tends to be on interventions for specific interventions; however, it’s recommended that new models should embrace all aspects of maternal and infant health. “Saving the lives of mothers and their newborns requires more than just medical intervention. Educating girls is pivotal to improving maternal and neonatal health and also benefits families and societies.” Veneman said