Maternal Mortality

Maternal Mortality
Courtney Bachman & Katelyn Gorman

Maternal mortality is one of the most unfortunate tragedies in our time. For decades, sub Saharan Africa has been the region with the highest maternal death ratio (Ganyaglo & Hill, 2012). The World Health Organization (WHO) (2011) defines maternal death as, “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or it’s management but not from accidental or incidental causes” (World Health Organization, 2011). According to current statistics on maternal mortality rates in Ghana, 350 deaths occur per 100,000 live births (Ganyaglo & Hill, 2012). Although this rate is declining, it is still high in comparison to other countries. In 2008, 358,000 maternal deaths occurred worldwide, 99% of these deaths were in countries of the developing world, of which 57% were in the sub Sarahan African region. To put these numbers into perspective, maternal mortality ratios in developed regions of the world, such as Canada, range from 13-16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (Ganyaglo & Hill, 2012).
The causes of maternal death can be either direct or indirect. Direct deaths are those which have resulted from complications of the pregnant state (postpartum haemorrhage, abortion related causes, hypertensive disorders, puerperal sepsis, anemia, etc.), from interventions, omissions, incorrect treatment, or from a chain of events resulting from any of the above (World Health Organization, 2012). Indirect causes of death are those that arise from previous existing diseases, or diseases that developed during pregnancy, and were not related to direct causes (WHO, 2012). Contributing factors to the high rates of maternal mortality in Ghana include: poor general health of the women, risky reproductive characteristics of the women, barriers to preventive health care and delays in accessing emergency obstetric care (Ganyaglo & Hill, 2012).

The Road to Change

The Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) are 8 goals that all 191 UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve by 2015. These goals commit world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. The MDGs are derived from this Declaration, and all have specific targets and indicators. The fifth MDG is to improve maternal health (World Health Organization, 2014b).
After reading the above information, it may appear as though we will not be able to reach the millennium developmental goal to improve maternal health, however, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Within the past decade, Ghana has improved their access to health care facilities and changed perceptions regarding the use of health services (Mills, Williams & Hodgson, 2008). Efforts are also being made for Ghana to have accurate, real time data from the vital registration system. This system will provide timely information to support accelerated action to reduce maternal mortality rates. What is accurately measured, can be managed and improved, according to Dr. Freiden of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (WHO, 2011a).
From our own experiences, we have observed the midwives on the ward assess and implement interventions to successfully care for and manage various needs of the women on the wards. We have experienced unfortunate events, as well as situations that make us hopeful for the future of Ghana’s health care system. We are positive that they will continue to move forward towards their goal of improving maternal health and reducing mortality rates.
Together, we have worked towards making a move to improve the health of women around the world. We have recognized what needed to be done and we have achieved excellent progress towards reaching the fifth MDG in some countries. Ghana is working towards ensuring universal health services and strengthening all areas of their health care system. It is a continual work in progress; however, it is not an unachievable goal. Decreasing maternal mortality rates will become much more successful when the focus, attention, and resources is on the people, not their illness or disease. With the implementation of the right policies and procedures, adequate and fairly distributed funding among the countries, and a constant yearning to deliver great care to every pregnant woman, we can make a life changing difference for current and future generations (WHO, 2014b).


Ganyaglo, G. K., & Hill, W. C. (2012). A 6-Year (2004-2009) review of maternal mortality

at the eastern regional hospital, Koforidua, Ghana. Seminars In Perinatology,

36(1), 79-83. doi:10.1053/ j.semperi.2011.09.015

Mills, S., Williams, J., Wak, G., & Hodgson, A. (2008). Maternal mortality decline in the

Kassena-Nankana district of Northern Ghana. Maternal & Child Health Journal,


World Health Organization. (2011). Maternal deaths: First measure, then cut. Retrieved

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World Health Organization. (2012). Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010. Retrieved


World Health Organization. (2014a). Millennium Developmental Goals. Retrieved from en/

World Health Organization. (2014b). Global Strategy For Women And Children’s Health.

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