How do we understand the effects and impacts? We don’t!

Do you know in Australia, with the exception of indigenous populations, there has been no major improvement in maternal mortality over the past 10 years even given the high level of interventions during pregnancy and birth.

Yet the burden of maternal mortality is only a small fraction of the burden of maternal morbidity.  Maternal morbidity is the health problems borne by women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period that have a negative impact on the woman’s wellbeing and/or functioning.  The true extent of maternal morbidity is unknown – for every woman who dies of pregnancy-related causes, it is estimated that 20 to 30 others experience acute or chronic morbidity, often with permanent sequelae that undermine their normal functioning.  Yet in Australia, there is currently no agreement on what constitutes maternal morbidity, preventing in-depth analysis of the effects and impacts of current maternity practice.

WHO has initiated a project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to improve the scientific basis for defining, measuring and monitoring maternal morbidity. This project aims to construct a definition and develop identification criteria for maternal morbidity, estimate the burden of individual causes or determining factors of maternal morbidity based on existing evidence and develop indicators for maternal morbidity.

This work is welcomed as there is an urgent need to define and measure maternal morbidity so as to understand the effects and impacts of current maternity practice.

Chou D, Tunçalp Ö, Firoz T, Barreix M, Filippi V, von Dadelszen P, van den Broek N, Cecatti J, Say L, on behalf of the Maternal Morbidity Working Group

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2016, 16 :45 (2 March 2016)

Abstract | Full text | PDF

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