July 21, 1989

Maternal Mortality in Developing CountriesAn Ongoing but Neglected 'Epidemic'

Author Affiliations

From the Columbia University School of Public Health, New York, NY.

From the Columbia University School of Public Health, New York, NY.

JAMA. 1989;262(3):376-379. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430030064035

Maternal mortality is one of the great neglected problems of health care in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 500 000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, more than 98% of these deaths occurring in the developing world. Maternal mortality rates in developing countries are as much as 100 times higher than those seen in industrialized countries. The most common causes include obstructed labor and ruptured uterus, postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, postpartum infection, and complications of illegal abortion. It is suggested that no new or costly technologies are needed; rather that appropriate priority-setting and allocation of needed resources are essential to the solution of the problem. There are few interventions that hold much hope of success at the village level, although antibiotics, ergonovine maleate, and sedatives might be usefully utilized, after appropriate training. Overall, however, networks of maternity care facilities, trained personnel, and means of transport are necessary to provide needed emergency maternity care services.

(JAMA. 1989;262:376-379)