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WHO's Maternal Mortality Rates

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From: C-ap@clari.net (AP)
Subject: Pregnancy-Related Deaths Up
Organization: Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 15:30:16 PST
GENEVA (AP) -- Mortality rates from pregnancy and childbirth are much higher worldwide than previously reported, especially in Africa, where one of seven women die from pregnancy-related causes, a U.N. report said Monday.

The World Health Organization's study of maternal deaths estimated 585,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related causes -- 80,000 more than recorded in its last study, in 1991.

The increase is attributed to improved reporting methods, said Carla Abou-Zahr of the WHO Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood Program.

The highest incidence of maternal deaths was in Africa, which accounted for 40 percent of total deaths even though only 20 percent of the world's births occurred there.

The new WHO study found the risk of a pregnancy-related death is 100 times greater in sub-Saharan Africa than in Europe.

``We were shocked at how high the figures turned out in Africa,'' Ms. Abou-Zahr said. In Africa overall, the risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth was an estimated 870 deaths per 100,000 births.

In Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and other African nations, women face a one-in-seven chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications, she said. Multiple pregnancies and difficult births raise the risk of death.

Previous studies appear to have underestimated by nearly one-third the maternal mortality in most areas of Africa, WHO said.

By contrast, only 1 percent of total maternal deaths occurred in developed countries, which have 11 percent of all births. Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have the lowest national death tolls, the study said.

In the United States, the study showed more women died from pregnancy-related reasons than estimated five years ago. The latest figures were 12 deaths per 100,000 births, compared to eight per 100,000 in the 1991 study.

Most of the world's maternal deaths -- 55 percent -- occur in Asia, which accounts for 61 percent of the world's births.

The study's results emphasize the need for ``greatly expanded access to quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth,'' Ms. Abou-Zahr said.

The bleak statistics give only a limited picture of real maternal mortality, WHO said. Only 78 countries -- less than half of the world's total -- routinely record cause of death. These countries represent 35 percent of the world's population.

The study was also sponsored by the U.N. Children's Fund.

This Web page is referenced from another page containing related information about Midwifery Advocacy and Statistics


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