Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Taking Avoidable Danger out of Pregnancy

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Taking Avoidable Danger out of Pregnancy

Article excerpt

Last October, in an attempt to make a dent in the huge, persistent toll of maternal deaths and disease, WHO launched a campaign to urge country health authorities to tackle the heavy toll of unsafe pregnancies. Of the 210 million women who become pregnant each year, about 20 million become ill and more than half a million die from causes related to pregnancy, childbirth or the immediate post-partum period.

The campaign has three targets. One is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies: preventing unsafe abortion by providing couples with greater access to safe contraception could reduce maternal deaths by up to 13%, WHO estimates. The second target is to increase the proportion of childbirths assisted by qualified health personnel from the current 50-55% to 80% worldwide by 2005: this should help combat, for example, infection during and after del/very, which accounts for about 15% of maternal deaths, and also obstructed labour, which accounts for 8%. The third target is to ensure that more women have access to proper hospital care for complications of pregnancy, such as post-partum haemorrhage, which is linked to 25% of deaths, and convulsions due to high blood pressure, which causes about 12% of maternal deaths.

"We know that maternal mortality and morbidity are related to several factors," Paul Van Look, director of WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained to the Bulletin. …

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