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Monday 24th October 2016

Diseases cause maternal deaths

19th February 2008

A recent study shows that large numbers of maternal deaths in the world's poorest countries are attributable to infectious diseases than to complications resulted from pregnancy.


According to an article in the online open-access journal PLoS Medicine, many more pregnant women in a large hospital in Mozambique died from four major diseases: AIDS, malaria, bronchial pneumonia and meningitis, than they did from conditions related to their pregnancy.

Lead author Clara Menendez, of the University of Barcelona, said the result was unexpected.

She said more than half the deaths recorded were due to non-obstetric causes, and that infectious diseases were mostly to blame.

The study suggests that the pattern recorded in Mozambique is common across many sub-Saharan African countries, where most of the world's 500,000 maternal deaths occur annually.

Experts say the finding adds more information to the continuing debate over the links between HIV, malaria and maternal deaths, and may shed light on how best to allocate resources to cut the numbers of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth.

Sebastian Lucas, a researcher at Kings College London, said the conclusions drawn by the study were 'stark', and challenged received wisdom about maternal deaths in the developing world.

The study was based on a series of autopsies on pregnant women who died at Maputo General Hospital in Mozambique's capital between October 2002 and December 2004.

Menendez and colleagues performed autopsies on 139 of the women, and found that complications directly related to pregnancy and birth such as bleeding accounted for just 38% of the deaths while infectious diseases were responsible for nearly half.

Menendez said doctors may be overlooking such treatable infections, and called for greater effort to promote the use of simple preventive measures like mosquito nets and condoms as part of a bid to reduce maternal deaths.

She said the four main diseases cited were so widespread that she would expect a similar pattern elsewhere across the region should further studies be carried out.

She said the deaths 'should not have happened'.

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