Skip to main content

Preventing Childbirth Complications

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.

Facebook: Dr Cory Couillard
Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


Popular posts from this blog

Can we now cure HIV in newborns?

Doctors are reporting that a child born with HIV that was put on an unusually aggressive treatment regimen has been functionally cured of the infection. Using the most sensitive HIV testing available, they were able to find only trace amounts of HIV "particles" but no virus capable of replicating, the research team reported.

"If there is a trial that shows this can happen again, then this will be very important," said Dr. Karin Nielsen, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. "You'll be able to treat people very intensively and reverse the disease."

The news provides no answers for adults living with HIV but it can be a landmark victory in the health of future generations. Every year, 300,000 to 400,000 babies are born infected with HIV according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

The treatment consisted of giving the newborn a three-drug…

Non-communicable diseases ravaging the poorest

The convergence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and infectious diseases (IDs) in low- and middle-income countries presents major challenges to the world’s poorest and most neglected groups of people. NCDs continue to escalate and cause hundreds of billions of dollars of loss annually despite aggressive lifestyle campaigns.

A NCD is a medical condition or disease that is non-infectious and non-transmissible amongst people. NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types stroke and heart attacks. Unknowingly to most, NCDs also include autoimmune diseases, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and many more.

Most Low- to middle income countries has dual disease burdens of NCDs and IDs including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and parasitic diseases. Unfortunately, experts, institutions and policies that support prevention and control of these two overarching disease categories have very limited int…

Strong health systems critical in addressing health threats in the African Region

Brazzaville, 8 April 2015 – The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has called on the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Republic of Congo to advocate with their national governments to strengthen health systems to be able to address the health challenges facing the African Region. She briefed the diplomats about the on-going Ebola epidemic in West Africa, current and emerging health threats in the WHO African Region, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the strategic priorities for WHO’s work in the Region for 2015-2020. The Regional Director underscored the importance of strong national health systems to be able to withstand epidemics and emergencies while delivering essential health services to people who need them most. Dr Moeti pointed out that the Ebola epidemic has had devastating impacts on families, livelihoods, security, health workforce, service delivery and overall socioeconomic development of the seve…