Every year 529,000 women, about one every minute dies from complications during childbirth (UNICEF, n.d.). Areas with high maternal death rates in 2000 included 95 percent in African and Asia, 4 percent in Latin American and Caribbean nations, and one percent in developed countries (WHO, 2003). Most of the maternal deaths occur in underdeveloped and developing countries, with areas such as the sub-Sahara region in Africa with ratios as high as 1 in 16 women dying during childbirth or pregnancy (UNICEF, n.d.). Worldwide, in developed or industrialized countries, the risk of maternal death is 1 in 4,000, that is a great difference in maternal and infant mortality rates and changes must be enacted to lessen this gap in maternal and child health and eliminate the disparity. Surviving children whose mother dies in childbirth are 10 times more likely to die within 2 years of their mother’s death (UNICEF, n.d.).
The disproportionate rates in maternal and child mortality can be linked to the fact that in developing countries more than 50% of women give birth their babies without the assistance of skilled medical care (UNICEF, 2012). Delays in medical care during childbirth resulting in death and disability are usually a delays in recognizing complications, in reaching a medical facility; or in receiving quality medical care before, during, and after delivery (WHO, 2003). Current data shows that in countries with lower maternal mortality rates skilled medical professionals are in attendance at the majority of births, while in countries with high maternal mortality rates such as Niger only have skilled medical professional in attendance for 16 percent of childbirths (STC, 2006). Efforts to address these delays are essential to reduce the rates of maternal deaths and increase the chances of infant survival.
Other indicators of maternal and child health status as factors associated with infant and child mortality include indicators of maternal health care, child and mother vaccination status, and the use of curative services (Rutstein, 2000). Additionally, the causes of death differ largely from developing counties to more industrialized nations. In industrialized nations infant mortality is usually linked to prematurity and babies being born very small or very early, while in developing countries 50 percent of infant deaths are attributed to infection, tetanus and diarrhea (STC, 2006).
Children and infants that are at an exceptional disadvantage due to poor maternal health. 20% of the burden of childhood disease in children under the age of age five is attributed to poor maternal health and nutrition, and the care received at delivery and as a newborn. The burden of child disease and maternal death can be greatly reduced with proper maternal care and medical attention during childbirth and delivery.
In 1870 mortality rates in industrialized countries were well above 600 per 100,000 (Brouwere et al., 2002). However since then there has been a slow decline in infant mortality down to rates of 1 in 4,000 (UNICEF, n.d.). Trend in the reduction of infant mortality in developed countries are developed in two major phases; the initial recognition of maternal and child health as a public health problem and the identification of the magnitude of the problem; and phase 2 the proper manageability of the problem and the promotion of deliveries under the attendance of a skilled medical professional.
While developed countries have shown different patterns in reduction since the tin of the century, certain areas of need are still being addressed to improve maternal and child health outcomes. Some patterns noted in the revolution of better maternal and child health can be replicated and utilized in developing countries. For example in 1751 Sweden realized the need for skilled medial assistance during childbirth. A study conducted by Swedish public health authorities noted that 400 out of 651 women died during childbirth that could have been prevented if a midwife was in attendance (Högberg, et al 1986 as cited by Brouwere et al., 2002).
In current times the United States has the second worst infant mortality rate in the industrialized world (STC, 2006). The higher rates of infant mortality in the United States are associated with newborns born to minorities and disadvantaged groups such as the infant mortality rate for African Americans is 9.3 deaths per 1,000 births which is double the rate for the entire United States (STC, 2006). In addition to common maternal childbirth concerns the incidence of mother-to child- HIV transmission in developing countries is a factor in the large number of infant deaths. Each year 590,000 infants acquire HIV from their mothers (Cock et al., 2000). Most transmissions occur in developing countries with standard short-course antiretroviral regiment interventions used in industrialized counties (Cock et al., 2000).
Additionally, infant nutrition is vastly impacted by the implementation of breastfeeding and proper maternal and child eating habits. According to Rutstein (2000) for prime nutrition and to help with immunity children should be breastfed for the the first 6 months of life, not given any solid food until 7 months and should continue to be breastfed well after their second birthday.
Infant mortality in developing countries is still a large public health problem and remains steady. Infant mortality is directly linked to prenatal care and maternal health. babies whose mothers die during childbirth are less likely to thrive and have a higher change of dying themselves before the age of 2. The availability of skilled medical professionals, HIV antiretroviral and patient education is necessary to reduce the incidence of infant and maternal mortality worldwide.
- Brouwere, V., Tonglet, R., & Lerberghe, W.V. (2002 Jan 5). Strategies for reducing maternal mortality in developing countries: what can we learn from the history of the industrialized West? Tropical Medicine & International Health, 3(10): 771-82.
- De Cock, K.M., Fowler, M.G., Mercier, E., de Vincenzi, I., Saba, J., Hoff, E…. Shaffer, N. (2000). Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Resource-Poor Countries Translating Research Into Policy and Practice. Journal of the American Medical Association, 283(9): 1175-82. doi:10.1001/jama.283.9.1175.
- Högberg, U., Wall, S., & Broström, G. (1986). The impact of early medical technology of maternal mortality in late 19th century. Sweden. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 24, 251–261.