Did you know that a woman dies from pregnancy complications every two minutes? What’s worse is that most of those deaths are preventable if they take proper precautions. That is why the theme of this year’s World Patient Safety Day is “Safe Maternal and Newborn Care.” That is why the World Health Organization set out to curb this. WHO sets September 17th of each year for World Patient Safety. The day focuses on raising awareness about the safety of patients. It also appeals to countries to take actions towards reducing patient harm. This year, the focus of the day is on improving safe maternal and newborn care.
WHO reports that about every day, 810 women die from pregnancy complications. Additionally, every day, about 6700 newborns die. Newborn death accounts for 47% of all deaths among kids under 5 years old. Each year, about 2 million stillborn deaths occur. That is why this year’s focus is on improving maternal care and newborn health. The World Patient Safety Day 2021 has four objectives which are:
- Raising global awareness on the problems surrounding maternal and newborn safety, especially during childbirth.
- Adopting effective and innovative strategies towards improving maternal and newborn safety.
- Engaging stakeholders to carry out urgent and sustainable efforts to improve efforts to reach all women to ensure safe maternal and newborn care.
- Advocating for healthcare professionals to adopt the best practices during maternal and newborn care to eradicate preventable risks to women and children during childbirth.
Why Do Women and Newborns Die During Pregnancy and Childbirth?
Complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth cause death among women and newborns. Some complications exist before pregnancy but the pregnancy worsens them. These complications are responsible for about 75% of all maternal deaths. Some of the major complications responsible for these deaths are;
1. infections and severe bleeding (usually after childbirth).
2. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).
3. Unsafe abortions.
Most of these deaths occur among women in low to middle-income countries. This is due to the lack of appropriate health resources in these countries. This reduces early detection of potential complications. Complications are more common in low-income countries. WHO reports that In 2017, there were 462 deaths per 100,000 live births in low-income countries. In high-income countries, there were 11 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Some of the countries considered as “high alert” for Maternal Mortality rates were; Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Guinea, Iraq, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sudan. In some of these countries such as Sudan, the MMR is as high as 1150 deaths per 100,000 live births.
These countries have fewer appropriate health facilities. As a result, complications are not detected early. In cases of early detection, other factors come to play. Some of these factors are;
1. Lack of information.
2. Cultural beliefs and practices.
3. Lack of transportation cost to the health facility.
4. Child marriage.
5. Funds for treatment.
6. A Low number of skilled health workers.
To prevent these avoidable deaths among newborns and pregnant women, here are some measures that can be taken:
- Educate Women:
One of the factors responsible for maternal and infant mortality is the lack of education. Most of the women in low-income families are not educated due to poverty, domestic violence, or child marriages. In some areas, factors such as lack of educational infrastructure and lack of qualified personnel also prevent women from getting an education. As a result, the women are not enlightened on health maternal practices or recognizing complications and seeking proper health care. The lack of education for the mother also affects the children. UN Women reports that women’s education is the key factor in the survival of a child.
To curb this, it is important to build essential educational facilities for women to gain an education. Government and NGOs should take action towards increasing female access to education. Access to education should go beyond building educational facilities or making education free. Sometimes other factors such as the cost of transportation to educational facilities, uniforms, or textbooks can affect the decision to educate women.
2. Train Local Staff:
Another way to improve safe maternal and newborn care among women in rural areas is by training local staff. One of the reasons for high MMR in these regions is the low number of skilled healthcare professionals to cater to pregnant women and newborns. To curb this, organizations should recruit local staff and carry out training to equip them with the knowledge to assist women during pregnancy and childbirth.
Locals should be trained on how to carry out early screenings and support the prevention of common health issues that occur during pregnancy. These issues include diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
3. Create a Safe Environment for Children:
An important way to care for newborns is by creating a safe environment for them. This includes; placing infants on their back when they sleep, removing items such as pillows or loose bedding around their bed area, and avoiding secondhand smoke around newborns. Second-hand smoke around infants can increase their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It can also damage their lungs and cause them to have lung or ear infections.
Some other measures that can be taken towards improving safe maternal and newborn care include equipping midwives and local healthcare facilities with necessary tools, providing supplies to clinics, and providing adequate pre-pregnancy and prenatal care.
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