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Maternal mortality and morbidity 

Maternal mortality and morbidity
Maternal mortality and morbidity

Suni Halder

and Steve Yentis

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date: 05 December 2020

The risk to women’s health is increased during pregnancy, and maternal mortality is used as an indicator of general healthcare provision as well as a target for improving women’s health worldwide. Morbidity is more difficult to define than mortality but may also be used to monitor and improve women’s care during and after pregnancy. Despite international efforts to reduce maternal mortality, there remains a wide disparity between the rate of deaths in developed (maternal mortality ratio less than 10–20 per 100,000 live births) and developing (maternal mortality ratio as high as 1000 or more per 100,000 live births in some countries) areas of the world. Similarly, treatable conditions that cause considerable morbidity in developed countries but uncommonly result in maternal death (e.g. pre-eclampsia (pre-eclamptic toxaemia), haemorrhage, and sepsis) continue to be major causes of mortality in developing countries, where appropriate care is hampered by a lack of resources, skilled staff, education, and infrastructure. Surveillance systems that identify and analyse maternal deaths aim to monitor and improve maternal healthcare through education of staff and politicians; the longest-running and most comprehensive of these, the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom, was halted temporarily after the 2006–2008 report but is now active again. Surveillance of maternal morbidity is more difficult but systems also exist for this. The lessons learnt from such programmes are thought to be important drivers for improved maternal outcomes across the world.

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