Maternal mortality rates are unacceptably high throughout the world. Increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and inadequate prenatal care has been linked to the increased risk of dying from childbirth.
Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of the 800, 99 percent of the deaths occur in developing countries.
In 2010, 287,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. The highest rates occur in women living in rural and low income communities that have poor access to healthcare services.
WHO reports that in many sub-Saharan countries that maternal mortality has been cut in half since 1990. This dramatic improvement is primarily related to improved access to healthcare services before, during and after childbirth. Continued advancement, education and policy development is needed to continue to reduce the risk factors associated with maternal deaths.
Who is at greatest risk?
A woman’s risk of developing complications increases with the number of pregnancies that she has. Therefore, adolescent girls under the age of 15 have the highest risk of developing complications over a lifetime.
A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3800 in developed countries, versus 1 in 150 in developing countries.
What causes the death?
Maternal mortality is a largely avoidable cause of death. It is estimated that 80 percent of the deaths result from complications during delivery and the immediate post-partum period. Many of these complications could have been prevented through education and lifestyle intervention techniques.
Conditions that result from high blood pressure, heart disease, infections, home violence and increasing rates of HIV/AIDS can be prevented, maintained or reversed through proper intervention.
The major complications include the following:
- severe bleeding (mostly after childbirth)
- infections (usually after childbirth)
- high blood pressure during pregnancy
One of the major factors that fuel maternal death is malaria. Data shows that up to 11 percent of deaths can be attributed to being bitten by an infected mosquito. It is very common for women to be bitten and not even know that they are infected. Low grade malaria parasite infections can cause significant harm to the unborn child and increase the risk of complications.
What can we do?
It is very important that all births are attended by a skilled health professional. Prompt management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
Severe bleeding after birth can kill a healthy woman within two hours if she is unattended. One of the primary causes of excessive bleeding is high blood pressure and poor clotting factors in the blood. Both of these conditions can be improved, managed or reversed with improved nutritional support.
Anemia -- the inability to clot blood can be treated the following ways:
- A vitamin or mineral (especially iron) deficiency may lead to the most common types of anemia.
- Rich sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, organ meats (liver and kidney), nuts and sprouted beans.
- Absorption of iron improves with intake of vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, greens, and peppers.
Infection after childbirth can be eliminated if good hygiene is practiced and if early signs of infection are recognized and treated in a timely manner. A strong immune system will help fight off infection as well.
Sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, peaches, pumpkin and other orange, red, yellow and dark green fruits and veggies are said to enhance many aspects of the immune system thus reducing your risk of infection.
Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.
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