We know that women in low-and-middle income countries are especially prone to maternal mortality. Those of us of who write about maternal health and keep up with worldwide maternal health, mortality, and morbidity statistics understand that in the world’s poorest countries we find the worst outcomes for both mothers and their infants. In recent years, we have also discovered that maternal health rates in the United States are far higher than acceptable. In fact, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate than any other developed country in the world. The countries that have the lowest maternal mortality rates are European. But that can be misleading as well.
Safe Motherhood Week , that is recognized each year between October 2 – 8, is the first coalition of partners of its kind to focus on maternal health in Europe. Some statistics will surprise you. Did you know five European women die every day from maternal health complications and in 2013, 1900 European women died from maternal health complications. Additionally, 1 in 10 women in Europe does not have access to maternal health care in the first few months of their pregnancies.
As a mother of two, I did not have optimal experiences either time I was pregnant. Each of my pregnancies was different, but the feeling I had with both of them was identical. I never felt like my physicians really cared about my pregnancies or deliveries, but that I was just a number to them. I have always chalked it up to being relatively young. I was in my mid-twenties. Even still, I believe to this day that I should have been treated with more dignity and respect. Even in two different states, I was treated the same way – with relative indifference. Even though my oldest daughter is 19, I’m still bitter about it.
Globally, there’s a general decline in the number of women who die from pregnancy or childbirth complications. However in Kenya, it remains high at 488
deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality is a health indicator of the wide gaps
between rich and poor, urban and rural areas within countries.
Women in low-and-middle-income countries need clean birth kits in order to stave off deadly infections in themselves and their newborns. This is the case not only during home births with midwives but also in institutionalized settings.
Zubaida Bai, founder of Ayzh, a social enterprise that creates clean, safe birthing kits for women as well as reproductive, newborn and adolescent kits, discusses how she included women’s voices in the development of clean birthing kits.
I am convinced that in order for maternal health interventions to work anywhere in the world, women must be consulted first as opposed to NGOs and charities developing products for women without their input. Bai expresses this brilliantly in this recent TED talk.
Every day 800 women die during childbirth or from pregnancy complications. This startling statistic represents women who not only live in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur but also throughout the world.
In order to reduce the number of maternal deaths in low- and middle-income countries across the globe design teams, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and NGOs are creating innovative ways in which to save more mothers’ lives through inexpensive interventions that are conducive to low resource settings.
In many hospitals and health clinics, for example, power can go out at any moment requiring alternatives that allow health workers workarounds to the perpetual problem of power outages. In these settings, women can also experience life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage that requires immediate attention with interventions that stop bleeding. Additionally, some women do not have the money to afford the items needed during childbirth and innovators are solving those problems as well.
While maternal deaths have fallen 50 percent since 1990, in some countries the maternal mortality rate remains stagnant. Only half of expecting mothers in developing countries receive the health care they need to deliver healthy babies and to survive childbirth.
Below are five innovative interventions that are used in countries where maternal mortality is high in order to make a positive impact on saving mothers’ lives.
Jhpiego:(Updated, May 11, 2017) While Jhpiego developed a “testing pen” to catch and diagnose eclampsia in its earliest stages the project did not move forward after rigorous testing.
Safe Surgeries: Jhpiego has partnered with the GE Foundation, funder for the Safe Surgery 2020 Initiative, to ensure mothers have access to safe, affordable, life-saving caesarean sections in Ethiopia. With the help and input of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health, Safe Surgery 2020 provides training, leadership skills, and updated procedures for safe surgeries at partner institutions in Ethiopia through implementing partner Jhpiego. The results have seen improved patient care and recovery, fewer surgery backlogs, reduced infections, and a holistic approach to safer surgeries.
PATH: PATH created an antishock garment that controls postpartum bleeding by applying pressure to the lower body and forcing blood upwards and prevents hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage is the number one cause of maternal deaths.
PATH: PATH also developed a balloon tamponade to stop uterine bleeding early. While there are other balloon tamponades in the market, they are expensive and inaccessible, especially in the developing world.