Maternal health care is a concept that encompasses family planning, preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care. Goals of preconception care can include providing education, health promotion, screening and interventions for women of reproductive age to reduce risk factors that might affect future pregnancies. Prenatal care is the comprehensive care that women receive and provide for themselves throughout their pregnancy. Women who begin prenatal care early in their pregnancies have better birth outcomes than women who receive little or no care during their pregnancies. Postnatal care issues include recovery from childbirth, concerns about newborn care, nutrition, breastfeeding, and family planning.
Many people consider the day their child was born the happiest day in their life. In the world’s wealthier countries, that is. In poorer countries, the day a child born is all too often the day its mother dies. The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa is 1 in 22, while it is 1 in 120 in Asia and 1 in 7,300 in developed countries.
Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.
Every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – that means 529 000 women a year. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year.
Five direct complications account for more than 70% of maternal deaths: haemorrhage (25%), infection (15%), unsafe abortion (13%), eclampsia (very high blood pressure leading to seizures – 12%), and obstructed labour (8%). While these are the main causes of maternal death, unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable, or poor quality care is fundamentally responsible. They are detrimental to social development and wellbeing, as some one million children are left motherless each year. These children are 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers’ death.
Women need not die in childbirth. We must give a young woman the information and support she needs to control her reproductive health, help her through a pregnancy, and care for her and her newborn well into childhood. The vast majority of maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to quality family planning services, skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and the first month after delivery, or post-abortion care services and where permissible, safe abortion services. 15% of pregnancies and childbirths need emergency obstetric care because of risks that are difficult to predict. A working health system with skilled personnel is key to saving these women’s lives.
B. The Targets
Target 5a: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
- Maternal mortality ratio
- Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel
Target 5b: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
- Contraceptive prevalence rate
- Adolescent birth rate
- Antenatal care coverage (at least one visit and at least four visits)
- Unmet need for family planning
C. Did You Know?
- More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year – that’s one death every minute. Of these deaths, 99 per cent are in developing countries. The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa is 1 in 22, while it is 1 in 120 in Asia and 1 in 7,300 in developed countries.(Source:UNFPA)
- Only 28 in 100 women giving birth are attended by trained health personnel in the least developed countries. (Source:ActionAid)