The latest Lancet series publication on maternal health highlights the fact that every year, a quarter of all the babies are still born without any skilled birth attendant. One-third of maternal deaths occur in India where 45,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth in 2015. In Nigeria, there were 58,000 maternal deaths, the highest in the world.
Every year, around 210 million women become pregnant and roughly 140 million babies are born. The report says that though the maternal mortality rate has reduced over the years, the difference still exists at national and international level.
The author of the series, Professor Wendy Graham from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said that it is the women from the most vulnerable groups that feel the biggest burden of the maternal mortality rate. She further added that this harsh reality might be a big hurdle in the path towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These aim at development for all or leaving no one behind.
The reports further say that the scenario of poor maternal care can be described in two separate ways. The first one being the lack of timely access to quality care. (“too little, too late”) The second one being over-medicalisation of normal and postnatal care. (“too much, too soon”)
One of the papers states that the problem of over-medicalisation was earlier associated with high-income countries. But now, these are now more frequent in low and middle-income countries. For example, 40.5% of all births are now by caesarean section in Latin America as well as the Caribbean.
Reasons behind one-third of maternal deaths taking place in India
Even though facilities and skilled birth attendants are increasing in the low-income countries, it does not mean that these facilities provide quality care. Furthermore, most of the facilities here do not even have basic resources like water, electricity, sanitation etc.
The author says that the measuring progress via skilled birth attendant coverage is not the right yardstick. It is rather insufficient and does not show the real complexity of the circumstances.
In high-income countries, the maternal mortality rates are reducing but still there is a wide variation at national and international level. For example, in the US the maternal mortality rate is 14 per 1,00,000 whereas in Sweden it is 4 per 1,00,000.
The Sub-Saharan African region was a witness to 66% of all the maternal deaths (2,01,000). It was followed by the South Asian region where it was 22% (66,000) of all the maternal deaths.