Women still face high risks in pregnancy and birth
Summary of story from CNN, November 1, 2011
Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of death among women living in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“There’s a clear connection between countries that have a high fertility rate, where women are having six to seven children, and the maternal mortality rates,” said Dr Dorothy Shaw, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
With each pregnancy the mother’s health risks multiply, especially if she has no access to health care.
Experts believe that multiple pregnancies close together do not give the mother time to recover after losing essential nutrients like iron and folate during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is known as maternal depletion syndrome.
The syndrome can put mothers at risk of anaemia and other complications such as uterine rupture. It also puts babies at risk of low birth weights and preterm births.
“Once you get past two to three children, the risks increase for complications like postpartum haemorrhage,” Dr Shaw said.
After numerous pregnancies the number of potential significant complications increases; the chances of babies being in the wrong position for labour is more common.
And uterine walls could also fail to contract after delivery, a common cause of post-partum haemorrhage.
These conditions can be fixed with medical attention and immediate treatment, but in many developing countries women may not have access to such resources, or families might not be able to afford medical fees.
“When birth goes well and normally and has a good outcome, it’s a beautiful experience,” Dr Shaw said. “Obviously, for the majority of women, that’s what would happen, particularly in a well-nourished, educated population. Unfortunately, there are complications. … We know globally, this (issue) is neglected.”