An Overview of Maternal Mortality and its Causes

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Maternal Mortality

The term “maternal mortality” or “maternal death” is used to describe the loss of a pregnant woman. 1 Death during pregnancy, childbirth or the postpartum period (up to 42 days) is referred to as “maternal mortality.” An unrelated death, such as one caused by an accident or a woman’s health during pregnancy, is not considered a pregnancy-related death.

Worldwide Statistics of Maternal Mortality

The United States maternal mortality rate is comparable to, or even lower than, that of other wealthy countries. Of course, that’s not universally the case. There were approximately 295,000 maternal deaths in 2017. Over 700 women die each year in the U.S, and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that approximately 810 women perished each day worldwide in 2017. Most of these women (94%) reside in poor, developing countries. In some locations, the risks of dying because of pregnancy are as high as 1 in 45. And, the unfortunate fact is that many of these fatalities are preventable.

Contributing Factors Maternal Mortality

maternal mortality
Contributing Factors in Maternal Morality

Other factors that influence the risks associated with pregnancy include:

Socioeconomic Status

Women from a lower socioeconomic class may have less education, bad food, and healthcare restrictions.  Lack of education relates to an unintended or untimely pregnancy. An inadequate diet can result in health problems and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Inadequate treatment puts women at risk for infections and other issues that a qualified healthcare provider could otherwise manage and cure.


Women in their twenties experience fewer pregnancy difficulties than younger or older women. Young girls under the age of 15 have a significantly higher mortality risk due to complications. The risks also grow with advancing maternal age and as women reach their late 30s, 40s, and 50s before becoming pregnant.

Gender Inequality

In other nations, girls and women have fewer educational opportunities. They are frequently denied access to financial resources and have no voice in their own life or family decisions.

Available Resources

Medical care is far and difficult to get for many women.  The lack of prenatal care, the delivery of a baby without a doctor, midwife, or nurse present, and the lack of access to therapies such as antibiotics and emergency services can have fatal implications.


In terms of parity, a woman’s total number of pregnancies is taken into account. First pregnancies tend to have a slightly higher risk of complications throughout pregnancy and labor. Second pregnancies have lower probabilities. On the other hand, the danger returns after five or more births.

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Causes of Maternal Mortality

maternal mortality
Causes of Maternal Mortality

Extreme pregnancy problems and maternal mortality are quite uncommon. Many complications that arise during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period are treatable or even preventable with attentive medical treatment. However, similar circumstances are far more perilous in other parts of the world. The top causes of maternal mortality are listed below.

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) 

Excessive bleeding and blood loss after childbirth is known as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). In most cases, the bleeding can be stopped by a doctor or nurse. A mother can lose too much blood and die if she does not have access to a healthcare provider with the necessary expertise and skills.

 Hypertension and Pregnancy Complications

High blood pressure and protein in the urine, for example, are often detected during prenatal care and testing. Pre-eclampsia can be treated and monitored by medical professionals. However, if not handled properly, it can become extremely harmful, even fatal. Between 13.3% and 15.9% of maternal fatalities are attributable to hypertensive conditions.

Termination of Pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on the surveillance of abortion in 2016 “As part of the CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, abortion-related maternal deaths in 2015 are being evaluated. There were six documented cases of women dying from complications related to legal induced abortion in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available.”  Contrarily, unsafe abortion is a major killer of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization estimates that unsafe abortion is responsible for between 4.7 and 13.2 percent of annual maternal mortality.


Infections might result from an improper abortion, an unhygienic delivery, or prolonged labor. A lack of knowledge and information regarding personal hygiene and postpartum care can also put a mother at risk for infection. Infections cause approximately 11 percent of maternal mortality.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a pulmonary blood clot. PE can occur after childbirth, and the risk is increased following a C-section. Approximately 9.2% of maternal deaths are caused by pulmonary embolism.

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Factors that can reduce maternal mortality


Young women (and men) who have a greater understanding of reproduction, fertility, birth control, and the repercussions of unprotected sexual activity can make better decisions for themselves. Information about family planning helps prevent unintended pregnancies and risky abortions.

Access to Health Care

Pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented via healthcare, the management of preexisting diseases, and the provision of safe methods. Nutritional treatments and reproductive health services are particularly crucial for young women and girls.


The understanding of appropriate personal hygiene habits and body care can prevent the spread of germs. Additionally, regular handwashing, a clean perineal area during prenatal exams, and a clean delivery location after childbirth can aid in the prevention of infection.

Pregnancy Care

Skilled treatment before and during labor can avert difficulties and result in a safe delivery. If possible, women should deliver their children to a medical facility. If delivery in a hospital, clinic, or office is not possible, a qualified childbirth professional should attend home births.

Postpartum Monitoring

Following delivery, women continue to require care. Postpartum examinations for irregular bleeding or infection are crucial. Living far from services or being unable to afford them might hinder a woman from acquiring the knowledge she needs to care for herself after childbirth, as well as from receiving potentially life-saving antibiotics and postpartum care.

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