Study identifies the main causes of maternal death in developing countries

March 27, 2006

Haemorrhage and high blood pressure are the main causes of maternal deaths in developing countries, according to an analysis published online today (Tuesday March 28, 2006) by The Lancet.

According to international classifications, a maternal death is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. In this study, researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) combined 34 sets of data, which included information on over 35 000 maternal deaths. They found that haemorrhage was the leading cause of death in Africa and Asia, accounting for around 30% of maternal deaths in these regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean, high blood pressure was responsible for the most maternal deaths. Abortion-related mortality was also high in these two regions and some eastern European countries.

Author Metin Gülmezoglu from WHO states: "This systematic review highlights the need for increased emphasis on programmes relevant to specific settings such as the prevention and treatment of haemorrhage both prepartum and postpartum. At the very least, most postpartum haemorrhage deaths should be avoided by appropriate diagnosis and management. Hypertensive disorders and sepsis continue to be concerns. Increased availability and use of magnesium sulphate for the prevention and treatment of seizures associated with high blood pressure should be a goal in all regions, and especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. The continuing death toll due to complications of unsafe abortion is a call for increased attention to access to services that can help women avoid unwanted births." (Quote by e-mail; does not appear in published paper)
-end-
Contact: Dr A Metin Gulmezoglu, UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, Dept. of Reproductive Health & Research, World Health Organization (WHO), Avenue Appia 20, Geneva CH-1211, Switzerland. T) +41 22 791 3417 gulmezoglum@who.int

Lancet

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