The death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes, is called maternal death. In the United States, women have a lifetime risk of 1 in 4,800 of dying of childbirth related causes.
The WHO notes that in 2014 the major direct causes of maternal deaths globally are:
- Severe bleeding/haemorrhage – 27%
- Infections – 11%
- Unsafe abortions – 8%
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) – 14%
- Obstructed labour – 9%
- Blood clots/embolism – 3%
- Pre-existing conditions – 28%
The statistics vary from country to country, and yet the worst of the conditions have been observed in Ethiopia, Combodia, and Haiti, where one in every 27, 44, and 48 women respectively have a lifetime risk of dying of childbirth related causes. In fact, in countries like Ethiopia, even access to legal abortion depends on whether the US will fund the nearest clinic.
Sister is a documentary made by experienced film maker – Brenda Davis, with Alexandra Swati Guild, and Alison Shurman, produced, directed, shot and edited completely by women. It captures colours, sights, and sounds while exploring the lives of three dedicated health workers and those in their care in Ethiopia, Combodia and Haiti through intense and beautiful moments.
Their chilling personal accounts reveal strategies in place to improve maternal health and the crisis of maternal and newborn mortality, when the strategies work, when they don’t work and how the lack of transport, communication and education create weak links along the way.
India accounts for 19% of maternal deaths around the world, losing about 56,000 women to childbirth every year – that’s one every eight minutes. Even though the maternal death rate has fallen from about 390 to 212 deaths per 100,000 live births in about 10 years (a 67 % decrease), for every woman dying in childbirth there are about 20 women who suffer long lasting illnesses that go completely unnoticed. Due to India’s vast country, diversity, problems of supplies (drugs, medicines), malfunctioning of equipment, inadequate human resources, inaccessible terrain, religious and socio-cultural factors, the situation is so poor that the states of Assam, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand still have a high maternal death rate above 300 per 100,000 live births.
There is dire need of task shifting, reduction of dependance on doctors, proper transportation and healthcare facilities and penetration of the same throughout India itself.
Have a look at the teaser that inspires some crtitical thinking:
Read more about maternal mortality on The Alternative here.