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Why mothers are dying during childbirth in Pakistan

A report says that these deaths can be prevented

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 8, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: Apr 8, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Why mothers are dying during childbirth in Pakistan

A woman tends to her 10-day-old baby born at a tent camp in Sukkur. Photo: AFP

Maternal mortality is rising around the world. According to a report by WHO, 830 women die every day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

The report also says that most of these deaths are due to preventable causes. This means that many women lose their lives because of mere negligence.

Around 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries, including Pakistan. According to the United Nations Population Fund, Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in South Asia.

A recent report by Index Mundi said Pakistan has a maternal mortality rate of 178 deaths per 100,000 live births (An earlier version of this article mentioned maternal mortality rate at 178 deaths per 1,000 live births. This has now been changed to 178 deaths per 100,000 live births.).

In this photograph taken on May 27, 2016, Pakistani health worker Zeweer Jan (2nd R) speaks with pregnant Kashmiri women at a healthcare centre in the village of Sharda in the Neelum Valley. PHOTO: AFP

Here’s a snapshot of the prominent causes of high maternal mortality in Pakistan.

  1. Lack of trained midwives

More than 60% of the population lives in far off rural areas where it is difficult to find a proper gynaecologist. So most births are done at home without clean equipment and trained midwives.

The midwives usually do not pay attention to proper sanitation. An unsanitary environment at the birthing place can cause multiple infections and put the lives of both mother and baby at risk. It is high time the government started training programmes for local midwives.

  1. Lack of access to medical help

Another major reason of maternal mortality in Pakistan is the lack or delay of access to medical health care. Many rural areas in the country lack maternity homes while the existing hospitals lack staff trained to deal with birthing mothers.

So when there is a complication, such as an obstetrician haemorrhage, these hospitals are unable to provide urgent treatment.

In this photograph taken on May 12, 2016, a Pakistani doctor attends to a sick newborn baby in the children’s nursery at a hospital in Muzaffarabad. PHOTO: AFP

Sometimes, women die on the spot. Shifting them to the city for proper treatment wastes time because of the travel distance. Women often have to wait for hours to get treated for complications which get worse with each passing minute.

  1. Physical labour during the pregnancy

Pakistani women in rural areas often work all day in the fields and at homes. They carry heavy objects and do not have much time to rest.  This worsens pregnancy induced stress. It can also infect the fetus. However, in villages, it often goes unnoticed due to a lack of ultrasound machines in hospitals. As a result, the gastric sack keeps becoming toxic and weakens the woman’s immune system internally. So, when the time of birth arrives, the mother has very low chances of survival.

  1. Child marriages and lack of family planning

Underage girls are more at risk of death during childbirth because their bodies are not ready to give birth. Another common issue is a lack of health resources that can guide people about family planning. Women in rural areas often give birth continuously without any recovery time in between pregnancies. As a result, the body is unable to bear the labour.

This article was produced in partnership with, a digital health company in Pakistan. Using oladoc, you can find gynecologists in LahoreKarachiIslamabad and book an appointment online.

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